OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE: "Crash EP"
While the name of the band and some of the song titles ("Eliminate Personal Comments", huh?) might suggest that here's a band that is just too smart for their own good, Obsessive Compulsive isn't thankfully an introspective britpop group with over-intellectual boring songs. They are actually a very impressive modern rock duo, and if the "Crash EP" doesn't land them a deal I am sure that the next demo will! Yep, the band, consisting of vocalist Kelii and guitarist Lee, is probably the most "ready"-sounding unsigned band I have heard lately.
Out of the four tracks here I have to give thumbs up to all of them, and especially the last one; "Love Is Pain" is an excellent piece of "nu-breed" melodic rock, to use a fashionable term. The opening duo of "Crash" and the aforementioned "Eliminate..." is also good, catchy modern rock. If you want comparisons I guess a combination of SR-71 and Manic Street Preachers with Patty Smyth on vocals wouldn't be too close from the truth. The ballad "Still The Door Shut" was the weakest of the four, but still decent enough...sounds like one for the next "Dawson's Creek" soundtrack, except it might just have too much "attitude" for that!
A special mention must go to vocalist Kelii - a great vocalist for sure, somewhat similar to Patty Smyth. Mark my words, this band is going places! If I'd have find something negative, it would have to be the promo pack: the letter was filled with tiny stars and hearts, that ended up all over the kitchen floor when I opened the package! Thanks a lot! :)
OCTOBER BABY: "Tales From The Pumpkin Patch"
I'm not sure if Lisa Bouchelle is a real October Baby? However, she's indeed a rock babe equiped with a voice out of ordinary... each and every month of the year. She's mostly known to the average hardrock fan as lead vocalist of Mastermind. Bouchelle recorded the album "Angels of Apocalypse", with the Progressive band and a live platter I may add (which name escapes me right now). You can also find her singing lead at some of the Magna Carta releases. Including the superb duet "This Time, This Way" with James LeBrie (Dream Theater), which was featured on the Leonardo project.
"Tales From The Pumpkin Patch" was recorded and produced in New Jersey/USA by Ernie White, a couple of years before above mentioned projects actually. October Baby was formed in New Jersey back in 1996, by Bouchelle (vocals) and LarEu (bass). The line-up on this CD was completed with Rob Peterson (guitars) and John Lewandowski (drums). They are both long gone by now and replaced with other musicians, I may add.
The music is not even remotely close to the progressive rock, we've heard in the past with Bouchelle. This is mostly melodic rock inspired by Pat Benatar or Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac). You can also find traces of Blues, Rockabilly, Pop, and even a touch of King Crimson here. All tracks except one is the work of Lisa, either on her own or with other band members. Overall a nice collection of songmaterial, even though you can find some really lame tracks included here. Especially "The Detective" and the absolutely horrible "Red Light Saturday Flight", comes to mind. The latter is a mish-mash of Jazz, Blues, and weird noises. The slow songs (Plane Ticket Unlimited, I Get Along, Step By Step) are all great with lovely performances by Lisa. Very sentimental stuff with warm, strong, vocals upfront. I actually fell in love with her voice, long before I noticed her charm (looks) & wits. Probably one of the better female voices in the rock biz, right now. "Commercial Word" rocks in the simular style of Lita Ford and "Lifeline", is very much like the band Rosanna's Raiders. However, I do miss some real "hit" songs and in the end, this is nothing more than nice/average. But the voice... wow, the voice is fantastic... pure gold!
OHM: "Ohm" 5
Lion Music 2003
There are three well-known musicians behind the project Ohm. The best known in rock circles must be Chris Poland, ex- Megadeth guitarist whose solo album "Chasing The Sun" I reviewed in 2000 [you can find the review in our archives. That album was pretty much a forerunner for this one, so those who got interested in this one may want to read it.]. This time it's Robertino Pagliari on bass and David Eagle on drums. Most of you may know Robertino from his work with Steve Lukather and some of you may remember David was working with Jan Akkerman. However I have to warn you all, this album is nothing like the works of the above-mentioned bands and artists.
Ohm is a fusion project, and though *some* parts may sound smooth and digestible (like the catchy, melodic "Love Song") for ears that are not used to this kind of music, the majority of the album is only for hardcore fans of fusion jams. The opening "Peanut Buddha" stands there as some well-planned exclamation mark: its tricky rhythms, fretless bass lines, countless tempo changes and innovative guitar scales scream "stay away if you are looking for cheap, quick entertainment, and come inside if you have the time, patience, experience to get into this kind of stuff". "Where's my Hat" continues in the same fashion doubling (if possible) the challenge of the listener.
This is the kind of album that needs to be
"survived" if you are not used to this kind of music. And though I'm as deep
into instrumental stuff as possible I can never get used to this. So I stick to
the "easy" tracks such as "Love Song" or "Between Us" and leave the rest to
those who are brave enough to push the boundaries of their listening habits.
This is another release from Chris Poland (ex-Megadeth) led OHM, a fusion project. This time they decided to record two of their live radio performances and release them on CD, even including the DJs intros. Sounds cheapo? You said it! Anyway, since - like their studio album already proved - the project is mostly about technical brilliance and improvisation the idea of recording a live performance was quite appropriate. All you have to do is to get through the most annoying DJ intros of radio history from the most annoying radio voices ever heard. [Do all "independent" radio stations hire people with zero talent on their field only?]
The band is the complete opposite, they are stunning musicians aiming technical perfection, however their music is only recommended to those who are VERY open-minded about their listening habits [see our archives for a review of their studio album]. Their fusion jazz-rock is not easy to get into, it's oriented at those who are able to recognize the technical brilliance of instrumentalism and do not mind memorable songwriting being sacrificed for it. Those who'd expect straightforward riffing characteristic for Chris's Megadeth years or his early solo projects should stay far away from the OHM releases cuz they aren't intended for the same audience those albums were.
The majority of this album is based on tracks of
the first release altered here and there, spiced up with a few jams. Those who
enjoyed the studio album will enjoy this one as well, however if you failed to
get into the spirit of that one and you haven't heard anything from OHM before,
be careful and listen to soundbytes first to avoid disappointment after
Phoenix Records 2000
|Review by 3-11-00|
While vocalist Biff Byford is still sailing under the plain "Saxon" flag, Steve Dawson and Graham Oliver have adopted another variation of the name, and have just released this live album featuring many classic Saxon tracks. Also in the band are guitarist Haydn Conway, long time Saxon drummer Nigel Durham and vocalist John "Wardi" Ward, whose previous works include a stint in Shy.
To be honest with you, I have never really cared for Saxon, apart from their most melodic effort "Destiny" (1988) and a few songs on other albums. Unfortunately, nothing from "Destiny" is included, and only a couple of those other favourites of mine have found their way to the set list. "Rock'n Roll Gypsy", "Past The Point" and "747 (Strangers In The Night)" are okay, but the remaining songs just strike me as being very average. Sure, the most well known Saxon tunes are included, "The Band Plays On", "Rockin' Again" and "The Eagle Has Landed" and so on, but this kind of rifforama does very little to me. I can't say I really like the growling singing style of "Wardi" either.
I'd recommend this album to only the devoted Saxon fans and people fond of the early eighties' British Metal style. For the melodic rock fans I can recommend a trip to your local second hand CD store in search of "Destiny"...
: "Re://Landed" 7
PHOENIX MUSIC 2000
|Review by 01-03-16|
This is a live album recorded on their recent European Tour and what we get is ten (10) of SAXON most classics songs and one (Past the Point) from the Son Of A Bitch project. I must admit that I never thought this would work without BIFF at the helm! But "Re://Landed" is pretty good live album, many thanks to vocalist JOHN WARD (ex-SHY, SLASH, MADAM X) as He really adds something extra to each song. The other two members are: Haydn Conway (Guitar) & Nigel Durham (Drums) both have been playing with Oliver & Dawson over the years in bands like WANTED, UZI, SON OF A BITCH or SAXON (Durham).
It's a trip back to the classic sound that SAXON had in their early 80's and songs like "Power & The Glory, Strong Arm Of the Law, The Band Played On, 747 (Strangers in the Night) & Wheels of Steel" are always great fun to listen to. The guitars are all Loud'n'Raw and there are no strange overdubs as far as my ears can hear. The biggest problem may be if the old fans accept this new "Saxon" and if they need two of them??? Well... only time will tell! Check out www.phoenixmusicuk.com www.assassination.co.uk or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
OMAR & The HOWLERS: "Boogie Man" 6
"You Can't Stop The Boogie Man" (Quote - Omar & The Howlers/2004). Yeah baby! It's the blues... and we're talking about the real deal from Texas/USA here. If those Gary Moore albums from the early 90's are still you're only encounter with the "blues", than I'm afraid you've been had. This is the true, red, white & blue, roadhouse sound, with everything that goes with that.
The Texas Hall Of Fame member Omar Dykes (vocals/guitars) latest effort is however a bit of a dissapointment. There are simply too many slow-songs included on "Boogie Man" and I wish there were more rockers like the smashing title track. Nonetheless, Omar is held in the highest regard by blues rockers in the states and the guestlist is rather impressive. Joining him on this release are songwriters and musicians including Stephen Bruton, Terry Bozio (best overall drummer?), Chris Duarte, Alejandro Escovedo, Ray Willie Hubbard, Darden Smith, and 'Double Trouble' Chris Layton & Tommy Shannon, the infamous rhythm section of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan band.
Omar's voice is quite similar to ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, something which becomes especially clear on uptempo tracks like "Boogie Man", "Bamboozled", "Shakin'", "Bad In A Good Way", or "Mississippi Mud". The latter reminded me also of the bearded band's (ZZ Top) material in the 70's. Slow and very boring tracks like "White Crosses", "Drowning In love", "Right Here In The Rain", and "All The Love We Can Stand", are all below average and adds very little to the over all picture. Bottomline, I expected a lot more of this all-star line-up and I believe I will only play the uptempo tracks in the future.
ON THE RISE: "On The Rise" 9
Who the heck is On The Rise anyway? After listening to some samples of the band earlier, I've been actually looking forward to this release. This is the pink and fluffy stuff that lame and out of fashioned AOR is/was made of!!!
Indeed, the Norwegian duo consisting of Bennech Lyngboe (vocals) and Terje Eide (vocals/guitars) are some fifteen years too late here. At least that's what most of the established journalist core would say anyway. They are of course right as today's music has nothing to do with catchy melodies or quality what so ever. Just take a look at the charts and then try to sing-a-long to the rap-crap music.
I can't believe the nerve of some bands (read: On The Rise), do they really think people want to hear this kind of music??? Goddamnit, this is way too catchy for the average listener! They could end up getting sued by MTV you know, there are just way too many melodies and hooks included here [:-)]. In fact, many of the songs are so wimpy, that you're almost ashamed to admit you like them [LOL]. They do borrow a lot from bands/artists like Mitch Malloy (his debut), Nelson, Rick Springfield etc. It's not the most original sounding CD in later years, then again, who cares as long as it's this good. The "typical" Scandinavian sound is all over the place and the whole package is very uplifting. Opener "Beat Of The Heart" reminds me both of Malloy's "Anything At All" and Nelson's "Love And Affection" somehow. "Lift You Up" is darn catchy, "The World Of Change" is very Toto-ish and "Memories Forever" is a great ballad. I could go on like this as I find it hard to pick out my favorites. There are one, maybe two fillers here and the "deja vu" feeling will pop-up inside of your head from time to time. This wont stop this from being a great "pure" AOR album though! Pretty much a must have, if you're a fan of the old school.
ONCE AND FUTURE KING: "Part I" 7
"Once And Future King" is the Rock Opera based on the legend of King Arthur. The mastermind behind this epic is Gary Hughes, who has reached notable success with his band TEN during the last few years. An all-star cast has been put together for these two albums: Hughes himself sings the part of King Arthur, while Bob Catley (Magnum) is Merlin, Danny Vaughn (Tyketto, Waysted) is Lancelot and Diamond Head's Sean Harris is Galahad. The female leading role of Guinevere has been given to Lane Lane with Irene Jansen in the supporting role of Morgana. Damian Wilson sings the part of Prologue Narrator.
The story begins with the prologue "Excalibur", which is somewhat of a shocker. Hughes has done his best to write a Power Metal song! The song is a full-on double bass drum banger with a chorus that would be totally Manowar, if it was sung by a macho male choir. A bit of a surprise and not entirely successful, but still quite catchy in a corny way.
The next two tracks are more typical Hughes-material. "Dragon Island Cathedral" starts like an Iron Maiden-tune, but turns out to be a more Ten-like melodic hard rock track. "At The End Of The Day", a duet between Hughes and Lane is a ballad and quite a good one. Lane Lane's vocals add another dimension to it and clearly make it a stronger track.
Vaughn-sung "The Reason Why" isn't among my favourites, although it has to be said that it doesn't sound that "Hughes-like", and it adds variety to the album. Still, I found it to be a bit bland, despite Vaughn's fine performance. Irene Jansen sings the lead on "Shapeshifter", which is an interesting and a bit aggressive track, somehow reminding me a bit of Nightwish.
Merlin aka Bob Catley gets to sing two tracks, "King For A Day" and "In Flames". They are decent but nothing too special I'm afraid. Same goes for Sean Harris-sung "Sinner". The highlights of the second half of Part One are "Avalon" and "Lies", sung by Vaughn and Hughes respectively. "Avalon" is the pure AOR track of "Part One", very much in the vein of first Ten album. The chorus does sound disturbingly familiar though...Finally there's "Lies", an excellent, dark ballad.
Compared to the last few Ten-albums, "Part One" is clearly more diverse, when it comes to songs. The several vocalists help too. The production is very good as well. However, I don't think that these songs are among the best Hughes has even written, although some of them are very good.
ONCE AND FUTURE KING: "Part II" 8
The second part of the Gary Hughes written rock opera (based on the myths and legends of King Arthur & Avalon), will be released shortly after the first one. This magnum opus project of Hughes, has been in the works for over two years, and the result are a couple of rather various sounding CD's. Like a night at the opera, you'll have to bring in all the aspects at once, and the show ain't over until the fat lady sings.
In this case, it's however not over until Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) sums it all up, with the appropriate title track. The classic and sometimes very dramatic sound of TEN, is indeed still present here. You will notice differences though, mainly due to the use of several lead characters and musicians (well, it wouldn't be a "opera" otherwise, would it?). The material is also slightly more progressive and sometimes even aggressive(?), than in the past. This is surely not a album for TEN fans only as I believe it to be wider and more across the border(s) than "that".
The story picks up where we left it last time, and opener "Kill The King" is here sung by DC Cooper (the role of King Aelle). Other new characters since the first part is: Sabine Edelsbacher (Edenbridge) as Nimue, Dougie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Cornerstone) as Mordred, and Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) sings the part of epilogue narrator. You can of course freely chose if you wish to follow the storyline to its fullest or play the songs individualy. Each track tell its own story though and some of them are pure AOR, while others are more Progressive or Metal-ish.
"Kill The King" is almost something which could have been included on other
rock opera, namely the Avantasia project(s). "Oceans Of Tears", sung
by the lovely Lana Lane (Guinevere) is pure AOR and one of the better
songs in its genre lately. Not exactly what I'd call a "typical" Gary
Hughes written song. This is more in the US direction of AOR, with hook
similar to the debut of Robin Beck, or late 80's stuff from Heart. You
could also say that another female fronted band at Frontiers, only wish
they had a song like this, on their recently released album. "Rise From
The Shadows" is a great metal tune sung by Irene Jensen (Karma) in her
role as Morgana. I must say I'm very impressed by the performance of
Sean Harris (Diamond Head) as Galahad. His "Without You" song, actually
reminded me more of Styx on steroids than Ten. Very bombastic, great
arrangement with lots of keys and pomp-ish stuff. Don't believe for
a second either that Diamond Head was only about "Em I Evil", which
Metallica later covered. The two songs performed by Sabine Edelsbacher
is not bad at all, even though I'm not a fan of her classic "opera"
trained voice (to say the least). Nevertheless, "The Pagan Dream" is
one fine song though. King Arthur himself (Gary Hughes) handles both
"There By The Grace Of Gods" and "I Still Love You (I Still Do), in
this second part. The latter is more typical Hughes material and one
fine "power" ballad. The real downer are the two tracks performed by
Dougie White (Mordred)... especially "The Hard Way", which can only
be described as one boring song. I can't say that I enjoy the Disco
influenced (?) guitar part within this track either. Bottomline, OAFK
is more progressive rock and metal than any previous work of Hughes.
I enjoyed this perhaps more than any of the latest releases by TEN.
Don't be afraid to pick this up, if you're not usually into his "daytime"
work. Think big, progressive, clash of armour, and everything else that
goes with a epic medeival drama. Still very melodic though... of course.
ONE EYED GYPSY: "One Eyed Gypsy"
One Eyed Gypsy is a five-piece hardrock band from Huntington, West Virginia that for the past three years has shared the stage with bands such as: Molly Hatchet, 38 Special, Southern Rock Allstars & Dr.Hook. I know what you´re thinking ... then this must be yet another (boring?) southern rock band that plays boogie rock with the typical (silly?) western boots and hats image?
Nah, not really... try Dokken or Bon Jovi influences mixed with just a small dose of southern rock, add some vicious guitar riffs a-la Ted Nugent and you´re pretty close. The twin guitarwork by Tim Kitchen and Philip Osbourne together with the rock steady rhythm section by Randy Morgan (Bass) and Bobby Hensley (Drums) works really nicely on all the tracks, and Ray Whitlock´s soaring vocals over it all makes this a very pleasant surprise.
The highlights would be opener "It takes no prisoners" with a catchy chorus and some great guitarwork a-la Dokken. "Give it up" where Whitlock sounds a lot like Jon Bon Jovi "Not gonna fall in love again" is a good power ballad and "Touch tomorrow" is yet another good ballad with a grand piano playing in the background. The song "In my America" takes a hard look at poverty and violence in the United States today, and it´s refreshing to find some lyrics about the real situation of the home of the brave. "Fix daddy broke" has some lyrics about Whitlock´s daughter? that might be nice for her to listen to, but I must say that I find this song to be utterly, disgusting bad. I can´t stand the song and the line "fix daddy broke" could be the most ridiculously hardrock lyrics I´ve ever heard. Nice album though, these guys deserves some attention ! Make sure to check em out at: their website where you can also buy the CD. Just skip track#7 (fix daddy broke).
OPEN SKYZ: "Open Skyz"
Now here's an album I have wanted to have for ages. Thanks to Richie from Australia, I have it now! The band used to be called "Valentine", and I really liked their first (and only) album. Sadly, this album isn't quite as good, but then again, that "Valentine" album is a classic. What we have here is a decent album, but without any real killer songs. However, some of the songs, like the very Steve Perry/Journey-like "Nothing Without You" and the ballad "Take Me There" are pretty close...
ORANGE CRUSH: "Songs For Ophelia"
Are you ready for some smooth and radio friendly music the Scandinavian way? Then make sure to write down the name Orange Crush somewhere in your notice book, since I believe we'll hear a lot about them in the near future. This is really a project across the borders as the members met while studying at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA in 1998.
Johannes Stole (vocals/keys) from Norway (also singer in Pedestrians Of Blue) and the two Swede's Daniel Palmqvist (guitars) and Max Flovik (bass) discovered they shared many of the same musical ideas and influences back in the states. They decided to recolte to Sweden and their first 5-track CD (EP) is really something out of the ordinary. This is very much piano/keyboard orientated rock/pop/westoast or whatever you'd like to call it.
"Songs For Ophelia" is a lovely mixture of Westcoast, Modern Pop and classic rock tunes. Everything here is very professional done with a nice production and great performances by all the musicians involved. I find myself thinking about artists/bands such as Rick Price, Jude Cole, Richard Marx, King Of Hearts, Phil Collins, and even some Mark Spiro, while listening to this superb CD. This is almost too good and somehow too sofisticated music to be on any of the AOR labels out there [:-)]. This stuff should really be out there on the radio waves as their laid-back style with tons of hooks and melodies would make perfect radio hits. I can't even single out my favorite track here as "Losing It Without You, Can't Believe It, Ophelia, The Way, & What I Came Here For" are all freakin' darn good. "What I Came Here For" is maybe the most wimpy (in a good way) song I've heard since Rick Price's "Fragile"...ehh.. if you know what I mean here. So darn good and so darn catchy... buy yet, oh so wimpy [:-)]. One thing's for sure though, Orange Crush is like a fresh breathe of air on a hot summer day. This needs to get out to the people a.s.a.p. For now check out the site below for more info.
ORION RIDERS: "A New Dawn" 7
Neo-classical, symphonic, power metal, with traces of progressive ditto!!! Pheeew... I believe I covered it all there... even though I'm not quite certain really. "A New Dawn" is however the debut album from these Italian rockers with the impressive vocalist Joe Lombardo, upfront.
Actually, the whole line-up with Antonello Condorelli (guitar), Riccardo Failla (guitar), Carmelo Siracusa (bass), and Tony Zappa (drums/keys), are all excellent musicians. Fast shredding guitars in the school and tradition of Yngwie 'Speedy' Malmsteen, is only to be expected with this kind of music. It's something which Condorelli & Failla handle with bravura and tempo furiosa, by the way.
Orion Riders will most certainly attract fans of Stratovarius, Rhapsody, Ring Of Fire, and even Yngwie Malmsteen. Add that "Leave The Shades Behind" could have been lifted off any of Dream Theater's albums in the 90's. The material is overall very solid and the keyboard/guitar work is nothing but breathtaking. Check also out those wicked bass-lines by Siracusa and the ever so solid thumping by Zappa. Believe me, these guys have been spending years and years in small and dark rehearsal rooms. The may lack a bit in the refrain department as many other bands in this genre. I believe it's the old "instrumental wa***ng syndrome", which seems to kick in every now and then. The musicians are simply too talented? for their own good, somehow. "Life's Best Days" is a marvelous piano ballad with high pitched vocals by Lombardo. He can hit those really high notes a'la Kotipelto (ex-Stratovarius), even if I still hold the Finn as the better vocalist. Best of the bunch is the bombastic "Old Symphony" with massive keys, flashy guitar solos, and really (almost silly) high pitched vocals. I hope that album #2 will contain even better refrains as Orion Riders are obviously a bunch of very gifted musicians. A good start though and die-hard fans of Ring Of Fire/Mark Boals, will probably love this.
ORPHAN: "Lonely At Night & Salute" 7
Escape Music 2003
Escape Music and early 80s rock from Canada are two things we've learn to connect to each other lately. There's no need to sit on one's hands about it either, since the result has often been very positive over all. Here comes yet another try with the Orphan kids as they were never really adopted by a large family/audience in the past. Now you can find them begging for your attention with this lovely 2-CD set (digipack).
Chris Burke-Gaffney (vocals/bass) & Brent Diamond (keyboards), were former members of The Pumps, who recorded the album "Gotta Move" on Polygram Records in 1980. They went on to become Orphan a couple of years later, with the addition of Steve McGovern (guitars) & Ron Boisvenue (drums). The first album "Lonely At Night" was recorded at the Power Station studios with Lance Quinn and Tony Bongiovi at the helm. Released by CBS in Canada and Portrait in the USA by 1983, this is typical Rock/Pomp for its time with similarities to both Aldo Nova (mostly) and Loverboy. Opener and title track "Lonely At Night" has a keyboard sound that Jon Bongiovi (Bon Jovi), probably found very cool as he used it later on. By the way, Jon was sweeping the floors at the studio while Orphan recorded their album. "What Kind Of Love Is This" sweeps down on you with tooth and keys and the ballad "Miracle", reminded me of Eddie Money actually. "Any Time At All" could have included on any of the first two Aldo Nova records and no-one would have known the difference in the first place. They even include that typical "echo" effect, which Nova played around with back then. "Hello" continues on the same path only with less success this time. Some excellent crafted rock music is to be found on disc #1 though.
"Salute" was released in 1985 and their old drummer + producers from The Pumps days, rejoined their ranks by now. Long gone were the Pomp influences and instead you'd get hard hitting and quirky rock, similar to Red Rider & Tom Cochrane (with only a touch of Loverboy this time). Aldo Nova actually contributes with some guitar work here... sadly an album too late though. The songmaterial doesn't quite stand up to the quality of the debut and you can't help feeling a bit disappointed. Opener "Open Up The Skies" mostly feels like a Red Rider/Tom Cochrane throwaway, while "Woman In Love" is a winner in the same genre and style. "Stand Up" is another winner with a fantastic AOR sound a'la Prism or Loverboy and the same goes with "The Way It Should Be". There's simply not enough with goodies on disc #2 and there's unfortunately no bonus tracks added to this box set whatsoever. Still, way better than anything the cat dragged in and 2 CD's for the price of 1, is not a bad deal after all.
ORPHANED LAND: "Mabool" 7
Century Media 2004
Orphaned Land is the first band ever from Israel I had the chance to check out. This is already their third album (out of seven? Oh well…) and the whole title is “Mabool: The Story of the Three Sons of Seven”. It is a concept album telling the story of three heroes with the mission of avoiding the rage of God, they fail and hence the Flood (Mabool). This pretends to be a symbol of the three main religions of the middle east in brotherhood and such. Anyway, let’s focus in the music.
Orphaned Land sink their musical roots in both metal and traditional folk music from their homeland and surrounding countries. As the story flows, we can find the sound evolving, from melodic mixed with folk (Ocean Land, Nora El Nora) turning epic by moments (The Kiss Of Babylon, Halo Dies), progressive at times (A Call To Awake, Mabool, The Storm Still Rages Inside), all of it spiced with a few ounces of grunts throughout the album. From an outsider to Jewish culture I’d say the adding of the traditional elements and chants help a lot to create the soundscape, to get you into the picture where the story is told. Listen to A’salk or Building The Ark and you’ll find yourself on the deserts of Palestine many centuries ago. More so, in fact each and every part has its role, I can imagine the grunts represent the wrath of God, the evil of the world, the sins, etc. The melodic lead vocal as the voice of the Three (the heroes), and all that… You get the point, right? There are also beautiful instrumental passages like The Calm Before The Flood where you can almost listen to the thoughts of the Three before the flood starts, or the ending Rainbow, where you can almost smell the wet land. No doubt these guys know how to create a musical environment to a story.
Mabool is a well designed, crafted and produced piece of music. You can of course dig the story or not, but even if you don’t, you’ll find yourself pulled into the deserts of Israel and the shores of the Death Sea where there’s no escape from the Wrath of God. Welcome to the Promised (Orphaned) Land. Shalom!
OVER THE EDGE: "Over The Edge" 9
Ladies and gentlemen, the first strong "Album Of The Year" candidate has arrived! Mickey Thomas, the vocalist of Starship returns after a lengthy break, fronting this project called Over The Edge. The primus motor behind it is producer Fabrizio V. Zee Grossi, who has previously worked on somewhat similar projects Perfect World (with Kelly Hansen) and Vertigo (with Joseph Williams) for the same label.
The songs for this album have been gathered from some of the biggest AOR songwriters, including Journey's Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain and Jack Blades of Damn Yankees/Nightranger fame. Most of the songs are new to me, only "Thief" is a cover of a Martin Stenmarck song from his "One" album (2002). There's not much one can say about this collection of songs, except that there's not a single weak song here, and that some of them are among the finest AOR tracks I've heard lately! The absolute highlights include the hard-edged modern day AOR of "Forest From The Trees", the more classic sounding "Turn Away" and the Jonathan Cain-penned ballad "Eyes Wide Open", but you can safely pick any of these songs and not end up being disappointed. Lots of fine melodies to be found!
So why only a "9"? Well, as good as the songs are, I feel that the album could have still used one or two killer uptempo rock tracks, now the overall feel of the album is a bit laid back and mellow. And to be honest, I can't deny the fact that the years have taken a toll on Thomas' voice...but anyway, I'm just nitpicking here, and you can quite safely spend your hard-earned cash for a copy, if classic AOR á la Journey is what you're after. Hey, did I mention that the musicians on this album include Neal Schon, Steve Lukather and Ritchie Kotzen, to name a few? I guess I did now...
OVERDRIVE: "Mission Of Destruction" 4
Crook'd Records 2002
Oh dear! I must admit I've never been a fan of over produced live albums. You know, the one's that are all redone in the studio, with a bunch of dubs and cover ups etc. However, there's another category that are worse and this CD sure belongs to them.
Mission Of Destruction is filled with hiss sounds, bum notes, a singer with a voice -not-really-up-to-normal-standard (read: out of tune) and weird mixing. I swear, I couldn't even hear one of the guitarists during his solo... that darn rhythm guitarist I could hear all the time though. Overdrive was a Swedish band who recorded two albums in the early/mid 80's. Inspired of the N.W.O.B.H.M. they now almost have a reputation of being a legendary Swedish band.
However, I find this to be pretty average rock by now and the song material is kinda poor. In fact, the best with Overdrive was guitarist Janne Stark. Who later formed the way better 'Locomotive Breath' act. Not to mention his good work as rock journalist and writer of the excellent book 'The Encyclopedia of Swedish Hardrock and Heavy Metal 1970-1996'. By the way, Part: 2 of the book will be released this summer. You can find 16 tracks here, where track 1-8 was recorded live in July 1982, before the recording of the album "Metal Attack". So, you can actually find two songs here that have never been released as studio recordings. Track 9 was recorded in June 1985 (their last show), while 10-14 are from their reunion in 1997. Vocalist Pelle Thuresson sings much better by now and "Burn In Hell" is always a nice treat. The two studio bonus tracks "Damnation Angel" and "Tonight", both originally on the compilation 'Rockslaget (1982)', saves the day for these Swedes. Only a connoisseur pick up though.