The ratings range from 1 to 10, with 1 being utterly horrible and 10 a classic in the making! Singles, EPs and compilations will not be rated.
The ratings range from 1 to 10, with 1 being utterly horrible and 10 a classic in the making! Singles, EPs and compilations will not be rated.
|REVIEWS ADDED 31 March, 2008
MALPRACTICE: "Triangular" 8
A mighty long road was laid upon Malpractice. So long, that people must've believed the band was no more. Malpractice formed in 1994 in Finland and has released two MCD's and now their third album. I reviewed their first "Of Shape And Balance" early 1999 in another magazine, and back then Malpractice was like any other young band, still searching their strengths and working on their arrangement skills. The year 2004 saw the band release "Deviation From The Flow" for Spinefarm, which showed improvement, but got no bigger hype. 2008 shows again improvement. The years have ripped out most of the trash influences, although bringing them back in small scale again since the first album. Moreso the band has switched to progressive and melodic sound, which suits them.
"Triangular" is catchier than its predecessors, even with the three longer tracks, "Maze Of Inequity", "Triangular" and "Fragments". These mammuts weigh the musician skills, if you don't have 'em, you sure as hell can't build on complexity and lengths. Malpractice has done this stylishly in Dream Theater and Fates Warning style, in fact their influences make them strong and more accessible to fans. The new album introduces a new singer in the band, Aleksi Parviainen, in his part blowing new life to the bands sound. I wasn't too keen on the earlier singer and his pronounciation, so I'm pleased from the turn. Only two members are left from their first release, so musically some sort of change had to happen. Parviainen has the range and tone of Ray Alder actually, creating an eloquent feel, while the guitars are duetting in the background likewise with catchy technical sprints and solos even a non-musician gets excited from.
Malpractice masters every mood on the album. "Symmetry" is one of the finest tracks, a summary of the bands skills and an instant hit, whereas "Waves" presents the more calmer and ethereal side of the band, close to the mood of Sub-Urban Tribe's "First Spring Day". The tight technical trashers "Deception", "Deadline" and the instrumental "Triangular" are tough cookies with their complexity, but again show the fine guitar work of Joonas Koto and Markus Vanhala, who make it all sound too easy, throwing notes like a running stream. The band sounds like any great prog band out there, though I longed for more hooks vocal-and musicwise, they would've given more kick to the album. Still it's great to see the growth in Malpractice, they've closed a huge gap between them and the prog dinosaurs.
INCRAVE: "Dead End" 7
Metal Heaven 2008
Incrave was formed in 2001 under the moniker of Evergrace and at their Swedish hometown of Edsbyn (mainly known for their Bandy team - look under 'obscure sport'). They're something as unusual as a young (average age: 22), six-piece (6), heavy metal band, with a very modern approach to style and production. The latter is the work of Per Rydberg (Bloodbound, Morgana Lefay, Tad Monrose) and the smashing artwork (see: pic) was done by Kristian Wåhlin (At The Gates, Emperor, Therion).
By the way, let's talk "image" for merely a second or two. These guys doesn't exactly have a traditional metal approach to things. Ehem, it's actually three-piece-suits and hairdo's in the vein of The Jam (Going Underground). Anyhow, the music is a completely different story as they'll end up somewhere in between the work of Dream Evil and the lesser progressive style of Evergrey. Throw in just a hint of modern influences 'ala HIM and their own style and you're all set to go.
"Dead End" is very much an album effort, you won't find any real fillers nor obvious highlights. They've actually managed to keep a high standard during their 10 tracks of Swedish Metal/Rock. There are the the excellent guitar riffs and soaring vocals that have become a recognisable trademark of Swedish Metal as of lately. Even though, "The Touch Of Death", opens up with a nod to the past and a intro in the vein of Yngwie J Malmsteen's "Devil In Disquise".
Johan Falk is indeed a powerful vocalist.... and with the help of two guitarists, bass, keyboards, and drums, Incrave set out to conquer the world through music. Although there is already such a strong competition about your money, I woundn't pass on Incrave without listening to some sound-clips first (check out myspace). Solid stuff.
The SUN: "Here Comes The Sun" 7
Estonia??? Hmmm, let me check... nope, not a single decent rock band in the past. Ouch, that's a bit harsh... but you get my drift (ignorance is bliss). The SUN are hardly any newcomers for that matter. Formed in 2003, the band has released four top selling albums in their native Estonia and collected thirteen (13) Music Awards, such as biggest selling band, band of the year, hit of the year, etc, etc.
Any "fan" of the 'Eurovision Song Contest' is of course aware that The Sun's vocalist, Tanel Padar, won the whole she-bang in 2001. Yep, we're talking major rock stardom and at the very top of celeberties in Estonia (weekly tabloid headlines, etc). The rest of the world are not as familiar (yet) to the sound of The Sun though (ehem, I'm not sure a certain U.K. tabloid will appreciate their moniker).
"Here Comes The Sun" is frankly just a nice mix of Hardrock/Rock with lots of quirky melodies and strong vocals. Nothing too groundbreaking or absolutely fabulous, but decent enough to attract your attention. There's no need to worry about any weird, strong, eastern, accent. Padar's got the knowledge and know-how to pronounce the English words in a sort of correct terminology (blimey, are we posh or what?).
Opener, "Third Day Man", reminded me a lot of Danish rockers: DAD. The same kind of attitude and energy only with a touch of estonian madness. "We Are Shadows" - walks along the same path as their previous track, plus that you'll get a healthy dose of both Dogpund and Rasmus rock. "Standstill" - flirts with the modern sound of Rasmus, while, "I Don't Care", takes you back to the 80's Power-Pop days and acts such as Go West, The Outfield, and the present of Fall Out Boy. It's a darn catchy feel-good tune that will have you up and dancing in no time. The super catchy, "Learn The Game", another winning concept with a killer hook to die for. Final verdict: a nice mix of rock/pop and hardrock, past and present, good and bad.
PROSPERITY DENIED: "Consciousless" 1
Mosh! Mosh! Mosh!!! Hardcore, Grindcore, Splattercore, whatever core - do we care? To be honest.... nope. I'm a major fan of Thrash &Speed Metal, however, this is where I and my fellow writers at RockUnited draw the line. Zero finesse, zero melodies, zero vocalist (some demented kind of growler), and one helluva headache afterwards.
Prosperity Denied could merely serve as an warning example to all of you out there. After all, isn't this the sort of band you can find playin' at your insane neighbours garage with a poor tormented dog as their only audience. Run doggy RUN !!!
|REVIEWS ADDED 26 March, 2008
AVANTASIA: "The Scarecrow" 10
Nuclear Blast 2008
Edguy's Tobias Sammet is back with some more 'guest star' rock, following on from the very good “Lost In Space” EPs released under the Avantasia banner last year. With contributions from the likes of Michael Kiske, Jorn Lande, Bob Catley and Alice Cooper, it's hard to know what to expect from this sort of thing, as it generally depends on what sort of mood songwriter Sammet has been in lately. Luckily for us, it seems he's been in an extremely creative one...
The first thing you notice about “The Scarecrow” is the cool cover. I don't usually go on about this sort of thing, but it's a great picture of a desolate, skeletal scarecrow that makes me wish that CD sleeves were a lot bigger. It's all good musically as well, with a plethora of guest vocalists helping Sammet bring the best out of each song. Each one is given a song that plays to their strengths as well, so Kiske gets a very Helloween-esque ditty with “Shelter From The Rain”, Bob Catley bagging the power ballad “Devil In The Belfry” and Alice Cooper joining in for a track that must have been written with him in mind from the ground up, the nicely nasty “The Toy Master”. Sammet himself pops up on most of the songs as well, which is no problem as he's no slouch in the vocals department himself. The vocals are rounded of by an excellent Oliver Hartmann performance (I love his voice) on “I Don't Believe In Your Love”, and Amanda Somerville (a popular Euro metal collaborator), who does a beautiful job on the haunting “What Kind Of Love” with Sammet and Kiske, as well as a brilliant duet with Sammas on the livelier version of “Lost In Space” that was on the EP. “Another Angel Down” from the EP is also here with no changes, but the other 9 songs are all exclusive to the album.
Although “Lost In Space”was a good listen, I never thought that Sammet would deliver such a great album so soon afterwards. “The Scarecrow” is stuffed to the brim with powerful melodic rock that just begs to be listened to again and again. Don't worry about the loose concept behind it all, just sit and listen to some astounding songs played and sang by some of the best rock artists around. With it's variety and quality, coupled with an excellent production and presentation throughout, “The Scarecrow” is an early contender for Album Of The Year (at least until Brother Firetribe...) that every self respecting melodic rock fan should own.
SHENANIGANZ: "Four Finger Fist Fight" 7
Silverwolf Productions 2008
Shenaniganz are a young German quartet who apparently won some nationwide schools competition a couple of years ago. “Four Finger Fist Fight” is their first album, and with any luck should get them a bit of attention outside their home country.
The band play pretty basic power punk music with English lyrics (their lyrics are in berret English than their press release) that should appeal to anyone who fancies a rougher version of the likes of Sum 41, although they owe more to traditional BritPunk than modern American bands. Shenaniganz have a knack for fast, catchy songs, well played with some good vocals by main songwriter Raig Georg. It's not all Oi! Oi! Oi! However, as they shamelessly rip off “Wheels Of Steel” on “Jesus Was A Rock 'n' Roller” and go all slide guitar and Suvvern Rock on “Hobo Slide”, the latter of which hints at a deeper musical side to the lads.
“Four Finger Fist Fight” is a very well made and produced album that doesn't break any musical barriers but showcases Shenaiganz as a band to watch. It has a fresh, bouncy vibe full of aggressive energy and is full of lively, melodic punk metal that is hard to hate. If they ever come my way I'll be at the front, put it that way.
EMERGENCY GATE: "Nightly Ray" 5
Emergency Gate - according to the info-sheet: "a mix of old-school metal, nu-metal and melodies". Really? AND melodies?? It's not like you can play the genre's and include them in the first place? Anyhow, "We have the recipe, now let's bake the cake", says Mario Lochert (also according to the rather corny info-sheet), former Pastry Chef (huh?) and bass player of the German rockers.
What they offer here falls between the two styles with a slighly wider approach to the old school of things. However, it's actually the "modern" sounding tunes that leave a lasting impression. The old-fart German Metal of opener, "Nightly Ray", or the similar "Kill The Dying", does very little to this music fan, especially since you've heard these melodies a million times before.
It's when they start thinking 'outside of the box' that things finally happen. The five-piece band suddenly comes alive and their music comes through as energetic beats of today. Blimey, perhaps the lads are ready for some success after all? Well, "In My Dreams", "Discre-Pantz", and the following, "Soul Streamer", are endorsements to writing skills that mostly stays hidden under the surface. They've also recorded a shady cover version of, "Rock Me Amadeus", a #1 hit by Falco back in the mid-80's. Bow your heads in shame lads as this is frankly just embarrassing. The lack of all the fun energy and power of the original is simply just too much to bear. Final verdict: ditch the old and head on out on the highway with your new kind of rock.
MISBEGOTTEN: "Keeping Promises" 2
Stereotypical thrashings from Misbegotten and their "Keeping Promises" release. They've actually done a clever little thing here to save both time and money. I believe they've recorded merely one track and then simply changed around the lyrics a bit to avoid a complete rip off. Then again... if you end up with ten tracks that all sound the same, you'd be daft to not scream out at the top of your lungs: RIP OFF!!!
I'd like my precious time back, please, as I've been spending way too long listening to this CD. Again, according to the info-sheet: "the songs are more positive, requesting and deliver a more hopeful approach to life in general". Bloody 'ell, folks must have been snuffing out in hordes to their music in the past, if this is considered to be a more "positive" approach.
Vocalist, Förster, works in a very limited space and range. Ehem, it's all a very monotonous experience from start to end. Reading through his source of influences is like reading a worst-of-the-worst as he cites: RATM (Rage Against The Machine), The Doors (the horror, the horror), Björk (oh dear) and Sigur Ros (sigh). I wish I could just mute the vocals. Yep, put it with the pile of other CD's you'll never listen to again. However, it'll still get a "2" rating... due to the excellent guitarwork by Bernhard Wimmer.
|REVIEWS ADDED 22 March, 2008
GATES OF WINTER: "Lex Aeterna" 8
Hang on a minute... this surely can't be an "Indie" release, huh?? It's simply too professional and not to mention superbly performed to ever be considered as "independently" released music. Everything (and I do mean adsolutely everything) from artwork, booklet, production, to the excellent metal speaks of high-class and quality in the vein of the majors.
Gates Of Winter is a young, symphonic, melodic metal group from Canada which takes orchestral influences from the likes of Kamelot and Nightwish while providing the heavy elements of Strapping Young Lad, Dream Theater and Opeth. It's just a darn fine mix of melodies and powerful riffing and texture that will have truckloads of Metal fans scratching their heads in disbelief.
Lee Maines (vocals/guitar), Bryan Belleau (guitars), Steve Angelo Furgiuele (bass) and keyboardist, Brian Holmes (no need to worry - they have a real drummer on CD), have done a splendid debut album that will create a small buzz on d'net. It's progressive, yet straight Metal, that actually could please fans of both camps. "Lux Aeterna" is a trip of joy and even though it perhaps lacks a couple of real hooks, I'd still recommend each and every one of you to check 'em out at the sites below. Why not pick up a copy of their indie release as these guys are going places fast. Hello - record labels in Europe - come and grab 'em.
RANDOM EYES: "Invisible" 7
Bullroser Records 2008
I recently reviewed the band's single "Living For Tomorrow", and here's the full album. And hmmm... I was somewhat critical about the single's title track, as it sounded a bit chaotic with so much going on in it. Turns out that it does represent the album quite well - this is a very demanding listening experience. Most of the songs are so full of different musical elements that the actual melodies and hooks do not seem to get the priority I would prefer them to get.
Interestingly enough, "Living For Tomorrow" sounds better as a part of the album than it did as a single. It is one of the more approachable songs of the album, and therefore a logical single choice. I still think that the "b-side" "You're The Reason" might have been a better choice, given its' hugely melodic nature. Thankfully it wasn't a single b-side only, it's also on the album. The song works very well in this context, providing a bit of a breather among the more "over-the-top" tracks.
After repeated listenings, it's hard to name any particular tracks aprt from the two single cuts, as practically all of them feature some cool ideas. Besides, I didn't get a tracklisting with my advance CD, so I don't even know the titles! Anyway, the over-the-top arrangements with layers upon layers of material don't always do justice to the songs. I have a feeling that these songs might work better live, when the band has to rely on their instruments and some of the studio wizardy is stripped away.
Despite my criticism, this is an interesting album and the band shows a lot of promise. Vocalist Christian sounds and looks like a star in the making, and I believe that we'll be hearing a lot of this band in the future. What they need for their next album is a couple of irresistable, catchy tracks and possibly a little bit more straight-forward approach.
HB: "Frozen Inside" 7
Bullroser Records 2008
Perhaps it's fitting that I'm writing this over Easter weekend, when people are sitting at home and contemplating the sacrifice that Jesus made two thousand or so years ago. Nah... just kidding. Round my way they are more likely to be contemplating getting another beer in and thanking Jesus only for getting them a nice long weekend. Finnish metal God botherers HB, however, are nothing if not committed to the religious thing, as their album shows.
“Frozen Inside” can be a hard album to listen to if you're the sort of person who thinks that belief in a God is pretty insane. Me, basically. The lyrics made me want to go and worship Satan, but as I don't believe in him either I was pretty screwed. That said, if it's on in the background and you just listen to the general music without taking in the words, there's some pretty decent music here. Johanna Aaltonen has a great set of pipes on her, and the symphonic metal songs show real songwriting talent. They're not at the Nightwish level, but if you like that sort of thing and don't mind being preached at then this album will probably be right up your alley.
Unfortunately, I haven't got any real info on the band. Even the song titles are a mystery as they're not included with the promo copy or on the bands website. “Frozen Inside” is, however, a competent stab at bringing God into a scene that's getting pretty crowded nowadays. Christians who love Epica and Within Temptation will get a real buzz from this, but non believers should check out the MySpace tracks first to make sure they can swallow the niceness.
REMAIN THE SAME: "The Artefact" 6
The Swedes of Remain The Same recorded a nice mini-CD a couple of years ago and we featured them at this very site. Their self-produced, "The Artefact", sounds pretty decent and I quite enjoyed their quirky slab of hardrock music. It's one of those borderline cases that goes along the lines of the most melodic side of Rush, Zebra, Triumph, and pure melodic rock of the 80's.
Difficult to describe... but never stale or boring due to the refreshing beat of the rhythm section (Kenneth Avergren: bass & Simon Rollnick: drums), and the constant driving force of vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist: Daniel Nilsson. Yup, this surely is a power-trio as all the previously mentioned acts and tracks like "Strange Behaviour", "Maybe", "Deadline", etc. borrow quite heavily from them all (and that includes a similar approach to vocals).
However, do not expect the exact same quality throughout and they can't really compete soundwise either (due to a rather small recording budget). But there's no need to be afraid to check 'em out though. They have many great melodies and a burning desire to keep things complicated... yet dead simple.
TEMPESTT: "Bring 'Em On" 6
Metal Heaven 2008
I was really curious about this album as these Brazilian guys are supporting my all-time favorite Jeff Scott Soto on his European tour that soon hits my town. When first playing it I had mixed emotions, it is obviously quality music yet I could not decide what kind of. Tempestt used to be a cover-band playing almost everything you can imagine in rock and they pretty much tried to squeeze all their influences into this album, even worse many of those into single songs. The result is a rather chaotic mix of everything from uptempo heavy metal to soft rock.
They remind me of Megadeth when the heaviest and of Journey when the softest. The Journey comparison was rather obvious as they close the album with a rocked-up version of "Don't Stop Believin'". The other tune intended for mad CD collectors is a duet with Jeff Scott Soto titled "Insanity Desire". Vocalist BJ lives up to Jeff and he delivers a decent performance all over the album. So do the rest of the musicians, the rhythm section appears to be very well-trained and the guitar work is stunning. My personal favorite was the epic "Enemy in You" but I have to add that none of the tracks could really grab me. The reason is what I mentioned above, the guys tried to grab too much while most of it slipped out of their hands.
An experienced producer with good songwriting skills
could bring the most out of this band, their creativity should be limited to a
certain extent, allowing the birth of actual SONGS. We get tracks instead of songs,
tracks that contain a big bunch of great ideas that do not come together as songs.
The typical mistake with many debut albums. Tempestt is no exception to that rule.
Still, give them a chance, you may think differently.
MESHUGGAH: "Obzen" 5
Nuclear Blast 2008
Formed already back in the late 80's, Meshuggah suffer from the unfortunate malaise of thinking themselves as pure Metal. Sure... they ARE Metal... but are they thinking man/woman's brand of metal... or are they just repeating themselves over the years? Listening through their latest CD, I'd have to go with the latter.
Their latest effort, "Obzen", may have a couple of new melodies, but it's mostly a love affair with an one trick pony. Meshuggah were most certainly huge during the dark-ages of metal (mid/late 90's) along with the likes of Machine Head (who?). They've even managed to escape the Swedish stigma of crap lyrics and dodgy vocalists.
Nontheless, here we are in 2008 and it still feels like 1998. I know, I know, some of you may say: it sure beats 1988... or even older crap such as 1978... but I beg to differ. If you're going to steal, copy, and basically repeat the past, then surely it's better to go with the classics instead of yesterday's average crap? Nope, this isn't pure crap or the worst thing I've heard since the Paris Hilton CD. It's just plain average and a constant reminder of how exactly much things have changed... or rather... not?
JET BOY: "The Glam Years Movie And CD" 4
The group that featured ex-Hanoi Rocks bassist Sam Yaffa for a couple of years (he later turned up at Michael Monroe's solo band). The 1988 debut album, "Feel The Shake", generally put themselves in the same condensend and style that Poison, Hanoi Rocks, had made their own, but that stew of Glam did considerable better and had way more success.
Jet Boy ran quickly out of fuel (no pun intended) as the Glam/Punk melodies never really stroke a chord worthy of a further investigation. It's remarkable how many fillers you'll find on the demo audio version of: "The Glam Years Movie And CD". The above mentioned title track with its AC/DC stomp and posure may just be one of very few highlights (along with the similar rock of, "High Gear" and "Don't Mess With My Hair"). Tracks like, "Little Teaser", "In The Alley", "Car Sex", "On The Lips", etc. are just too juvenile in a retrospective approach.
The DVD disc is a 11-track live performance at The Whiskey A Go-Go in 1986. Jey Boy had been playing the Hollywood scene for years until they finally got their MCA contract in '88. It's actually quite fun to watch and the slide-show plus interviews will probably do just fine among the die-hards. But as for the rest? Well... I guess you had to be there back in-the-days to fully enjoy it all???
|REVIEWS ADDED 15 March, 2008
BROTHER FIRETRIBE: "Heart Full Of Fire" 9
The long waited second album from the fiery Finns is finally here, and I'm strongly stressing the word fiery. The album cover, designed by Hugh Gilmour (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, The Who, Deep Purple, Hanoi Rocks) finely reflects to the treasures hiding inside the cd case. It's hard to believe how much Firetribe has matured since the first release, but while doing so they haven't lost their magic. On the contrary, they've raised the stakes to where I'd start calling them the Gods of melodic rock, and I'm not joking. If a band can fill an albums worth of classics and do it as heartwarmingly and kickass style as Firetribe has, with lyrics anyone can relate to, they should by now be in the big leagues.
The nine rockers, "Who Will You Run To Now", "Wildest Dreams", "Runaways", "Game They Call Love", "Heart Full Of Fire" with Pekka Heino's duet with Nightwish singer Anette Olzon, "Heard It On My Radio", "Going Out With A Bang", a great Mike Reno cover of "Chasing The Angels" and the mighty "I Am Rock", which appeared in a Finnish tv-serie, all pay homage to Firetribe's idols, where bits and pieces of Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Journey, even Deep Purple come alive, but in Firetribe style. The album sounds big, the backing vocals and the keys bring in the right feel and a breeze from 80's. Heino's vocals are once again very hypnotic and warm, with the right angst or sadness, whatever the song calls for emotionally. The songs also present the best ever invented cliches, hooks, everything right on the money. Like Heino sings in "I Am Rock"; "I put a spell on you forever", I wonder what's the magic called, but I'm most likely under that strange spell forever.
Let's not forget a band like Firetribe are also obliged to please their female fans as well with a few teary moments. "Play It From The Heart" and "Out Of My Head" are pure chick magnets, amazingly warm ballads that you get to hear once in a decade, if not even that. Another great feature on this second release is the real drums played by Kalle Torniainen, who brings the songs more alive, than what it was with a drum machine. The band also still sounds playful like before, having not forgotten their origins. Celebrate the 80's with Firetribe, 'cos it ain't easy matching up to the atmosphere they've created, it just doesn't happen that very often anymore.
"Heart Full Of Fire" is damn close to
ten points worth, and it's definately the album of the year, I can see
it from my crystal ball. It's more demanding than their debut, but once
it gets a grip on you, it'll leave a permanent mark on your heart. I've
spinned this candy tens of times already, and can easily say Firetribe
lived up to the expectations. They're a rare gem in melodic rock scene,
which little by little is diminishing anywhere else but USA, where
greats such as Journey and the likes still have a huge following.
Hopefully Firetribe will inspire young musicians getting the melodies
back in the game. I'm in ecstasy with this release to say the least and
so, so proud of my fellow countrymen. Get a grip on this classic, it'll
never gather dust in your cd shelves, I bet my pinky strings on that.
FIRES OF BABYLON: "Fires Of Babylon" 7
Fires Of Babylon is a brand new project in the style of U.S. Heavy Metal of the 80's. Put together by guitarist: Lou St.Paul (Winters Bane), vocalist: Rob Rock (Impellitteri, Warrior, M.A.R.S. etc.), bassist: Kelly Conion (Death, Monstrosity), and drummer: Bob Falzano (Annihilator), the band intentionaly set out to create an album that would blend nicely in with the metal acts of the past.
The question on everybodys mind: did they succeed with their mission to create a modern retro classic? Nah, not really... but it's a darn fine effort anyhow and extra kudos to Rock for a vocal performance out of ordinary. The CD clashes into action with the manically snarling, "Falling To Pieces", a number that Fates Warning would have been proud of back in their heydays.
The shredding guitarwork and hi-pitched vocals will bring a smile back to the face of every U.S. Metal fan, who've missed the likes of Vicious Rumors, Sanctuary, Crimson Glory. Well, the CD also contains melodies reminiscent of classic Queensryche and Sacred Warrior. The latter due to some lyrical themes that deals with Biblical world views (Holy Resurrection, Lazarus Rising, etc.), but you'll find stories about struggles, triumphs, and political commentary.
Final verdict: You simply can't go wrong here if you'd fancy a slice of American Pie in the style of the bands mentioned above. Nothing new, nothing groundbreaking, but darn solid, and mildly addictive.
POWERWORLD: "Powerworld" 4
Great, just what the world needs... another friggin' remake of " I Just Died In Your Arms" (Cutting Crew). The original is a typical one-hit-wonder (yeah, sure, they had a couple of really minor hits, but it's not like we remember them), and a personal favourite tune of the 80's. However, this has been covered to death by every band and their grandmother as of lately and you'd think they'd pick some other fine song of the eighties.
This is otherwise the debut album from the band project based around bassist Ilker Ersin (ex-Freedom Call, Moon'Doc), drummer Jurgen Lucas (At Vance), guitarist Barish Kepic (Jaded Heart), keyboardist NiIs Neumann (Freedom Call), and vocalist Steffen Brunner. PowerWorld is the name and Melodic Rock with a hint of Symphonic Metal is the game.
Sure enough, all the vital elements are here, a powerful vocalist, riffomatic guitars, and the occasional sing-a-long refrain. Yet it feels like they're treading water and it's all too predictiable in the end. It simply doesn't work out well for the lads. Their biggest problem? - coming up with choruses that stays in your head for more than a second or two. No doubt, "Your World Is Not Mine", could be one of the better Melodic/Symphonic songs as of lately (think: Yngwie 'Total Eclipse' era vs. Freedom Call).
Nontheless, a majority of the tracks lacks the necessary to stay in your thoughts. Sad but true, as you turn off the CD player, you'll be humming on, "I Just Died In Your Arms"... and that surely can't be a good sign?
KING'S CALL: "No Alibi" 3
When I first played this album, I thought I might be in for a retro flavoured treat not unlike Krackerjack's excellent "Rock On" album. King's Call, fronted by singer/guitarist Alex Garoufalidis, are unashamed seventies throwbacks who owe a lot to the likes of UFO, April Wine and a little bit of Thin Lizzy (mostly the name).
It's a shame, then, that "No Alibi" is a pretty rubbish album. Garoufaldis can play a mean guitar but his voice is pretty weak, with him coming across like someone trying desperately to sound like Phil Lynott but without any of the power or passion. The ten songs here seem to have all the right ingredients, but then so would a cake baked by a drunk in a blindfold. The problem is that they are all so boring the urge to ever listen to them again will not come upon you. Add to this a wafer thin production and you have "No Alibi".
So, in a nutshell, King's Call have an average singer wrestling with dull songs
and a poor production. Some good guitar solos do not make a good album, and King's
Call have definitely not made a good album. File under "What's the point" and go and
get Krackerjack instead.
PSYCHO CHARGER: "Curse Of The Psycho" 2
Christ oh mighty... a brief glance at the artcover and I can instantly tell what's coming. I hate this... I don't want to be one of those who judge a book/CD by its cover. Then again... you try and keep a straight face while looking at the cover and at the same time reading the charming title of: "Curse Of The Psycho". Did I mention the band's name is Psycho Charger? No, need I say more?
But okay... let's spin the wheel of fortune and hope for dumb luck. Nope, no such deal here (honestly). Psycho Charger play a weird kind of Industrial-Punk-Rockabilly with one foot in la-la land and the other somewhere deep down in limbo. It's obviously not music to be taken seriously... or... horror, horror... have I totally been misreading them after all? The press release sure describes this as the best thing since sliced bread. Let's just order out for pizza instead.
|REVIEWS ADDED 12 March, 2008
KAMELOT: "Ghost Opera - The Second Coming" 9
Steamhammer Records 2008
In case you didn't know, “Ghost Opera” is rather a good album. Released last year, it was the bands eighth and most ambitious album, featuring in many a Best Of list come the end of 2007. Not mine though, because I never heard it. This re release features a second disc which contains ten live tracks from the recent tour, as well as three brand new studio tracks and a remix of “Rule The World”. Tacked on the end of the original album disc are two videos as well, for “Memento Mori” and “Human Stain”.
This is a tricky one to review, as I was only sent the second live disc in a cardboard sleeve. As such I cannot comment on the videos, nor can I tell you about the new packaging. This is a shame, because I love it when a label takes the time to make a package that is pleasing to the eyes as well as the ears. Ah well, can't have everything...
By now, I have heard the original album, and can confirm what just about everyone else has said – it's very good. If you're a Kamelot fan then you really don't need me to tell you this, but if you're coming into this band as a newbie then you could do much worse than to start with the latest album in it's latest incarnation. The live CD is very well done, showcasing a band that are very comfortable with their own material. I especially like “March Of Mephisto” from “The Black Halo” album – great stuff. The three new tracks are also all well worth hearing – two typical hard rockers and a surprisingly sweet “Epilogue”. Kamelot are a very accomplished heavy rock band with overtones of operatic influences that are never allowed to go too far, and if you don't own anything by them this really is something you must own. If you already have “Ghost Opera”, however, you have to decide whether you want to spend the same money for a live album that just happens to come with an album you already own.
My rating is for those that don't own the original. If you do, adjust according to your own views on record companies re selling you the same album as many times as they can.
Neal MORSE: "Question Live"
Neal Morse has gone from being a Prog-Rock scene semi-God to a worldwide acclaimed christian musician??? Well, his days of leading Spock's Beard and Transatlantic may all lay in the past and his maker, the Lord, seem to have a much bigger part of his life nowadays. This is a remarkable double disc release with the good Neal at his prime of performing the music of his life.
He's definitely profounding a Christian faith and the lyrics are a testament to his beliefs. There's even a "short" sermon included within these tracks of "The Temple Of The Living God" and "The Entire Question Mark Album Live!". It doesn't feel forced or too hysterical as he's simply talking from the heart with his words and music. Morse may owe a massive debt to the 70's Prog, but aren't too balant in his plagiarism. And to be honest, it's more and more straight "rock" for each release and his more of a distant cousin to the Petra sound of the past nowadays.
Bottomline: some may call him an engima, but in truth... he's just a simple man with a strong belief in the man upstairs. In the words of Petra: More power to ya. Excellent live album indeed!
OVERDRIVE: "Let The Metal Do The Talking" 8
Despite not being widely known outside of their home turf, this Swedish outfit and their first new album in 24 years, fronted by guitarist Janne Stark (writer of the book: The Encyclopedia of Swedish Hardrock & Heavy Metal), are definitely worth a listen.
They were formed already back in 1980 and recorded two full albums in 1983 and 1984. I can't say that I enjoy their early albums (even though Overdrive are somehow considered to be metal pioneers in Sweden). To be honest... I find them unremarkable and utterly stale. Thus why "Let The Metal Do The Talking" came down as a nice surprise on a grey monday morning.
Janne Stark shines throughout, drifting between kick ass riffs and some excellent melodic passages with ease. Well, Stark has always been a fine string-bender, however, this time around you get some great arrangements and songwriting to go with the shredding (not his strenght of the past). The new vocalist: Per Karlsson (former Unchain) possesses a voice that fits like a glove to the old/new Metal melodies of the past.
Indeed, this one's for the Metal freaks of the very early 80's. Stark's NWOBHM obsession has definitely found its way on to the band's new 12-tracker. The opening two tracks are deadringers to RAVEN and their 'All For One' sound. Check out several other tracks such as "Deceived", for some hard-driving metal in the vein of early Maiden (The Paul Di'Anno days). I still think their early works suxx, however, the overall power of this album is undeniable!
BLACK CROWES: "Warpaint" 8
Silver Arrow 2008
Now... this is merely just a shot in the dark as I haven't got a clue to what the real CD sounds like. Ehem, take a bow Maxim Magazine as you've set the high standard for all the writers of the world. But seriously, yes, I've been listening to "Warpaint" for quite a while now and it seems like The Crowes have gone even more retro than usual as of lately.
Again, I'm no expert on the 'old geezers' rock, but blimey, this CD sure reeks of The Faces, Rolling Stones, and just a hint of the southern rock thingy. The Robinsons' are clearly into Rod Stewart and his mad partner-in-crime aka guitarist of the 60's (a Rolling Stones member since the death of Brian Jones), In fact, opener: "Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution", could not have been more The Faces alike if it had featured Rod and co.
"Walk Believer Walk" is darker only to be followed up by another Rod-song (Oh Josephine). "Evergreen" is a battleground for the rawest of old R&B emotions and the album is at once complex and very basic. One thing's for sure, there's no bandwagon-jumping going on here whatsoever. You can divide this album into two actually as it's a 50/50 affair of "Rod Stewart" songs of the 60's/early 70's ('Locust Street' anyone?), and a slightly darker R&B. Nice.!
VOODOO SIX: "First Hit For Free" 8
White Knuckel Records 2008
Don't be surprised if the name Voodoo Six rings a bell at the back of your mind. Apparently this album was sort of released back in 1996 but suffered from record label problems that stopped the band dead in their tracks. The whole thing has now been remixed by Mike Fraser, with a new track, the single “Faith”, bolted on for good measure. I even saw them once, supporting Iron Maiden back in 2005, but to be honest haven't really given them much of a thought since then.
The key to the Voodoo Six sound seems to be big riffs. The riffs here are meatier than an all you can eat bacon breakfast buffet in Vegas, backed up by some truly thundering bass by ex Dirty Deeds man Tony Newton. When they first came around they must have fitted in perfectly with other talented Brit hopefuls The Ga Gas and The Black Velvets, but whilst those bands have disbanded or faded away, VooDoo Six have decided that they want a second ride on the rock roundabout.
“First Hit For Free” is a rock album for rockers, featuring plenty of good old heavy rock with some nice melody and well structured songs. Vocalist Henry Rundell may look more like a member of Marillion in the band photo, but he has a truly classic rock voice, all soaring screams and solid verses. My only complain is that he can be lost in the mix, with Mike Fraser seemingly more interested in giving the listener a pounding musical experience than showcasing the vocal talent. Mind you, the musical experience is a scintillating one, with some truly excellent guitar from Matt Pierce and Chris Jones that stays within song boundaries and doesn't get out of control at any point.
Who knows whether this second bite of the cherry will give Voodoo Six indigestion or not. From the evidence here they really should have had more people showering praise at them (like Steve Harris did) a few years ago, so maybe this album will find a bigger audience now it has been polished to perfection. Well worth checking out.
SACRECY: "S/T" 6
Maanalainen Levykauppa 2007
Sacrecy is a Finnish Christian Metal band, and this is their first album. Their musical style is a few steps towards melodic metal from Dream Theater, while the lyrics have a strong Christian message. I find myself struggling to come up with a review of this album, not because of the Christian content but because of the music. All music and lyrics are written by the band's keyboard player and producer Olli Hipeli, who is obviously a hugely talented musician, and excellent at creating moods and soundscapes. His production work is really good too, and the rest of the band are highly capable as well. Still, all the virtuosity in the world won't make a great album alone, it all comes down to the songs.
Hipeli's songs aren't bad by any means, but they don't have that "something" which would make me want to play them again and again. The press bio stated that hooks and melodies were a priority for the band, yet none of the songs left a permanent mark on my memory. I made a note that both "Devil's Reign" and "Hope From Above" stood out, but now that the CD isn't playing, I can't remember their melodies...
Knowing that this is the band's first effort, the band has plenty of time to polish their metal. If they can inject a bit more memorability to their songs, their next album might be a blindingly shiny piece of holy metal. Amen to that.
DIVINE BAZE ORCHESTRA: "Once We Were Born..." 4
A rather groovy release from Sweden! The Divine Baze Orchestra are five vikings from Scandi-land and they've been plundering around the music bay for a couple of years. They are rather well known for their hard-driving early 70's sound and overall professional attitude.
"Once We Were Born..." was recently recorded at the Bo Ek recordings at Skara Studios and contains of ten tracks all excellently executed, even though not all tracks are excellent in any way. In fact, the first two, three, songs, glides quietly in on a cloud of mushrooms and weirdness.
I would definitely change around the tracklisting as not until track #5 (In Search), can you find any real structure in their music. It's literally a mish-mash of Captain Beyond, Black Widow, King Crimson, Budgie, and overall obscure and "groovy" sounding acts of the very early 70's. It's naked, raw, dry, rock with Orange (?) amplifiers, roaring organs, plus that darn mellotron of the hippie era. They are merely 35+ years after the rest of the world. Strickly intended for the children of the revolution.
METALIUM: "Incubus Chapter Seven" 3
Just when you thought Metal would have a nice comeback year... as usual it decides to raise its ugly head when you least expect it. My past experiences with Metalium (see archive) told me this creature could either go all the way or broke. It's unfortunately the latter as: "Incubus Chapter Seven", could merely serve as a warning example of how not to record music in this time and era. The opening track will scare off most people with its pompous overture and silly one-liners.
Although never pure crap, the remaining songs do suffer from underproduction and are lacking that extra bite. They do reach into the killer zone and real metal territory once or twice, most noticable on the later part of the album. But it's all too obvious and not to mention unfavourable to become a winning concept in the year of 2008. Have we heard it all before? yes, a million times, and with a much better outcome, I may add.
PALACE TERRACE: "Flying Through Infinity" 3
"Flying Through Infinity" is a Progressive, Neo-Classical album in desperate search of material to make the listener sit up and pay attention. I must admit that I kind of lost interest halfway through as tracks such as "The Tenth Dimension" and "Chaos Theory", are just as intriguing as the titles may suggest (zzz!).
These kind of musicians are sometimes too busy finding another obscure accord to throw at the audience, that they keep forgetting to include a decent melody. The likes of "I Know Your Home", are fillers that Dream Theater would toss into the garbage can and later recycle as toilet paper. Ehem, that's a bit harsh, I'm sure. But you get the picture anyhow (it's not a pretty one either - toilet paper and neo-classical rock - yuk!).
Palace Terrance are clearly a bunch of very talanted musicians. They could play circles around most acts... all they need now is one decent songwriter and they're most certainly ready to take on the world.
HELLSONGS: "Hymns In The Key Of 666" 1
WTF? Yet another cover album? Are these guys for real? Are they merely taking the piss at millions of real music fans around the world? Quite possibly so as "Hymns In The Key Of 666" surely most be the turkey of 2008. In fact, the best thing about this CD is the artcover and that's probably the best statement you'll ever receive about Hellsongs.
I thought we had seen enough of these "fake" acts in the last decade... but no such luck. They should definitely spend more time concentrating on their own songwriting next time as this is highly confusive and should be considered as waste of time (not to be confused with Owen Paul's ' favourite waste of you-know-what'). This kind of theatrical layered pap belongs back in the best forgotten mid-90's, next to all the other garbage that filled the void in decent rock music at that time. Keep a safe distant to avoid being too depressed to eat.
|REVIEWS ADDED 08 March, 2008
Toby JEPSON: "Guitar, Bass & Drums Part 2" EP
Townsend Records 2007
Toby Jepson seems to be pretty busy these days fronting Fastway, but not too busy to continue putting out the second part of his 'Guitar, Bass & Drums' trilogy. Part 2 features five spanking new tracks from the man who once wowed people as the voice of Little Angels, and thankfully they carry on in the same vein as part one.
Little Angels were one of my favourite bands way back when, and after they split up Jepson's musical career seemed to all but disappear. It's great news, then, that each of the five tracks here (as with part 1) would be right at home in the company of some of the better LA tracks. There's a brilliant energy throughout, with Jepson just doing whet he does best, writing great songs and then delivering them with one of the best voices in the business. It really sounds like Toby Jepson is ready to get back where he belongs, so let's get behind him.
RANDOM EYES: "Living For Tomorrow" single
Bullroser Records 2008
Even though there was an interview with Random Eyes on our site a couple of years ago, this single is my introduction to the band. There seems to have been a lot of changes in the band's line-up, there used to be two vocalists in the band, but now the female vocalist is gone and Christian Palin is the sole singer of Random Eyes. There's no keyboard player in the band anymore either, but I guess that's temporary, as both of the songs do feature keys.
There are two songs on the single, and I must say that they should've been "vice versa". The title track isn't a bad song, but somehow it's a bit chaotic and all over the place, with ethreal choirs, almost thrashy beats and just too much going on. I'm not that impressed by Christian's vocals on this song either, he sounds a bit forced at times.
"You're The Reason" is the other song, and why it wasn't the actual single is beyond me. It's simply an awesome track with superb vocals, moody keyboards and a killer chorus hook. It sounds like a hit to me, even though I can't deny the similarities to a certain Love Metal group... thankfully Christian isn't a deep-voiced Ville Valo clone.
I've got the band's full CD on my desk waiting to be played, and I hope that there are at least a few songs as good as "You're The Reason" on it... stay tuned.
EDWARD: "Back Home" single
Technically, I could've placed the review of this single among the demos at our A&R Department column, but it doesn't sound or look like a demo. The single sounds absolutely professional, and the artwork would fool anyone to think that we're dealing with a major act.
Edward's music sounds like a combination of the modern American rock (Fuel, Alter Bridge, Nickelback...) and Finnish melancholic, gothic rock (HIM and the likes). The combination works quite well, and in fact I'm quite surpised that they still remain unsigned. Maybe it's the fact that while the two tracks on the single are both good, in the end they might not be catchy enough to become hits. I actually think that the second song "First Move" would have a better chance to become a hit, since it has a stronger chorus. Anyway, the single has done what it's supposed to do - I'm curious to hear more of Edward's material.
STEEL ATTACK: "Carpe DIEnd" 6
Massacre Records 2008
Steel Attack win my award for most metal name for a metal band this week. You know where you are when you buy a an album by a band called Steel Attack, and that's firmly in the METAL section of the store. The thing is, should you bother buying it?
Steel Attack hail from Sweden, a land more known for gentler rock music, and can easily be described as power metal, simply because that's what they do. “Carpe DIEnd” is their sixth album, although with a different guitarist, bassist and drummer from the last album, 2006s “Diabolic Symphony”.
“Carpe DIEnd” is not a bad album at all, with a good use of keyboards giving it an edge over some of the similar power metal out there. Vocalist Ronny Hemlin seems to be pretty comfortable in his position after three albums now, and has a pretty decent metal voice that doesn't mangle the lyrics or make you want to muzzle him. There's some nifty guitar riffs and solos and plenty of tracks that will have heads banging all over Europe when the band tour, but with all this said it's just not a special album. Competent and reasonably entertaining, yes, but Steel Attack lack the special something that sets bands such as Viron apart from the herd.
KORPIKLAANI: "Korven Kuningas" 4
Nuclear Blast 2008
So this is folk metal. This sort of thing seems to be gaining in popularity around Europe, with Turisas proving an accordion is no drawback in metal, and Alestorm getting rave reports everywhere. Korpiklaani are a Finnish band that like to thunder along at a hundred miles an hour with big guitars and shouty vocals that seem determined to have everybody singing along and drinking. Oh, and they have an accordion.
The first thing you notice about “Korven Kuningas” is the fact it's split into 99 tracks, with each of the 14 full songs split into utterly pointless smaller pieces. Maybe it helps with piracy, I don't know. What I do know is that it is incredibly irritating, although at least the CD cover tells you where each track starts and finishes. Speaking of Finnish (see what I did there?), most of the album is in Finnish, which will certainly restrict chances of success abroad. That said, there are a few English language tracks, although vocally it doesn't make much difference as the delivery is quite guttural.
Korpiklaani really don't grab me very much. Most of the songs start by sounding like Turisas' “Rasputin”, and carry on in much the same way. Instrumental “Shall We Take A Turn” is just every other song without the grating vocals, and as such is probably me favourite. “Gods On Fire” sees the band slowing down and getting a bit more 'epic' in feel, but it just turns out to be a bit dull, making you miss the frenetic energy of the other tracks. Perhaps the biggest crime on the album is that the last twenty minutes or so are just some drumbeats, included I suppose to fill up an 80 minute CD. Totally and utterly pointless, they are tacked on to the title track and serve as nothing but another reason not to buy the CD.
“Korven Kuningas” may well be a riot when played live, but on CD it is just repetitive. The stupid track layout and end of CD timewasting don't do Korpiklaani any favours, but these would be forgiven if the music was a bit more inventive. It's not. There's a lot of energy that will no doubt translate well live, but as an album “Korven Kuningas” should be left well alone.
|REVIEWS ADDED 28 February, 2008
BONFIRE: "The Räuber" 7
LZ Records 2008
This band has been one of my favourites for a long time. Their "Fire Works" and "Point Blank" are essential melodic hard rock albums and both would get an easy 10 out of 10 me. I've followed the band's career during the years, and while their later works haven't quite reached the level of their masterpieces, they've have rarely really disappointed. That is until the "Free" album (2003), which was a sad affair, and I was really worried whether they could bounce back. To some degree, they did with "Double X" in 2006, which had its' good and bad moments. With this album, they take another step or two towards the top again.
"The Räuber" isn't your average rock album, as it's actually a "soundtrack" to a theatrical piece, a drama called "Die Räuber" by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805). However, apart from a couple of instrumental/spoken word intros, Bonfire hasn't tried to change their musical style, and the songs are the kind of material you'd expect from the band. Okay, there are a couple of songs in German, the band's native language, but musically the band doesn't drift away from their normal sound. In fact, this album is less of a departure than the aforementioned "Free"...
The first two tracks of the album are possibly the best two Bonfire tracks of the last five years, "Bells Of Freedom" being an energetic rocker and "Refugee Of Fate" a superb melodic track with a killer chorus. Unofortunately the rest of the songs can't match their brilliance, even though "Black Night" is almost as good and I quite like "Time" and some of the ballads of the album. But...the German-sung songs fail to impress, and "Hip Hip Hurray" is almost as bad as its' title would suggest. Not to mention the "The Good Die Young", which borrows a idea or two from "Heaven's On Fire" by Kiss. "Let Me Be Your Water" does the same for a couple of Bon Jovi ballads, but it isn't quite as obvious.
The better songs do ensure a decent rating for the album, and overall I get the vibe that the band is a bit more spirited than on the last two albums. I just hope that the upward spiral continues for the band and that their next album is a real milestone.
SOUTHWEST SUNRISE: "Sleep In The Fire" 8
Now this Finnish band is really puzzling, they look as ugly as a Norwegian death metal band, they are named as a party- glam band straight from L.A. and their music sounds like a decent mix of Skid Row and Treat but add some keyboards to make the mix even thicker. Even more puzzling that this independent recording that is produced by the band itself sounds as good as any big-budget HQ studio album.
I guess I have to say two thumbs up for these guys, they were smart enough to record an EP of decent songs and great production instead of a full-length album filled with unnecessary fillers and quickly thrown together weak production. That should be the way to go for all independent bands, now they are ready to shop themselves around at labels. Betcha they will very soon end up somewhere with a full-length album as this four-track EP leaves nothing to desire. Good songs in the vein of the above- mentioned bands with cool refrains, thick choirs and memorable hooks and really good keyboards that add a new perspective to the songs.
My personal favorite was "Legends Never Die"
with its great vocal melodies. Oh by the way, haven't we asked about a zillion
times if songs titled "Dream On" should be banned? It seems people never learn?
:) Anyway, I can't complain, this is really good stuff. Hear it yourself at:
|REVIEWS ADDED 26 February, 2008
MAGNUM: "Wings Of Heaven Live" 9
Steamhammer Records 2008
Magnum's "Wings Of Heaven" is probably one of the best melodic live albums of this year. This double CD was recorded on the "Wings Of Heaven Live UK Tour" and the second CD features the entire "Wings Of Heaven" album, which was originally recorded back in 1988. So, you can enjoy classic Magnum tracks like "Days Of No Trust", "Must Have Been Love" or "Don't Wake The Lion". This second CD ends with the song "Sacred Hour" from their album "Chase The Dragon", which was released way back in 1982!!!
The first CD features 9 songs of which 4 songs are
from Magnum's last album "Princess Alice & The Broken Arrow". The
old tracks are "Back Street Kid" and "Vigilante"(both from the album
"Vigilante",1986), "How Far Jerusalem" and "All Englands Eyes"(both from
"On A Storyteller's Night", 1985) and the title track from "Kingdom Of
Madness"(1978!!), their debut album.
All songs really sound great and I can tell you that this live album is working
overtime in my cd-player!!
Highly recommended and not only for Magnum fans!!
KRACKERJACK: "Rock On" 9
This album came out of left field a bit, and I'll admit that when I saw the band name and the cover I was ready to be very unimpressed. Although professionally done, it just didn't give me a lot of confidence in what would be inside. I know it's an old proverb, but I guess you really can't judge a book (or a CD) by it's cover, because “Rock On” is a great little album.
Krackerjack's modest aim is to become “The Next Generation of Classic Rock”, which is certainly something I can appreciate. What this seems to mean in practice is eschewing modern trends and digging out their old Deep Purple and Whitesnake albums. Well, if you're gonna have influences you may as well get some good ones, I suppose.
“Rock On” follows on from the bands 2005 debut “Good Thing Goin'”. I haven't heard that one (from surfing the net I don't think I'm in a minority) but if it's anything like this one I'd certainly like to. Krackerjack happily wear their influences on their sleeves, but should not be dismissed as a copy band. The Hammond organ that is integrated into the songs may remind you of John Lord, but the compositions, whilst reverent, have the spark of originality that sets them apart from other retro bands. Vocalist Allan G Pederson has a good set of pipes somewhere in between Gillan and Coverdale (although not as accomplished), his voice carrying the tunes effortlessly. Most credit must go to guitarist Rene Mikkelson, who wrote or co wrote all the songs as well as providing some excellent guitar. He obviously loves classic rock and would have been right at home 25 or 30 years ago.
There's ten songs here, and not one has any real weaknesses. Opener “Love 'em To Death” suffers a little from cheese overload but makes up for it by having a highly infectious chorus, whilst “Lonely” is almost a missing Deep Purple song. Mikkelson certainly knows how to write catchy choruses, especially on the amazing “Lullaby”, but is also happy to switch to more bluesy rock with the thundering “Blame It On The Little Big Man” or the Thunder-esque “Waiting For Tomorrow”, the latter mixing up some marvelously Purpley keyboards with a verse structure that Danny Bowes would love to get his teeth into. The production is also excellent, professional job, helping bring the songs to life by balancing out the instruments just right.
It's great when an album comes out of nowhere to smack you in the face with the sort of songs that run around your head for the rest of the day. That Krackerjack are without a decent distribution deal is staggering, as this is what many people are looking for these days. “Rock On” is an album I happily recommend to all fans of classic melodic rock. Track it down and give them a go, because you won't regret it.
RPWL: "The RPWL Experience" 8
Inside Out Records 2008
I really liked "World Through My Eyes"(2005), but the new RPWL album called "The RPWL Experience" is even more to my liking. The album starts with one of the best RPWL tracks ever called "Silenced", a song with amazing guitar solos and lots of melodic, even sometimes psychedelic musical passages. The beautiful, melancholic voice of Yogi Lang adds the superlative dimension. In fact it is a shame that not all other tracks are of this high quality, otherwise this album would deserve a perfect 10! Another highlight is called "Stranger", featuring a true metal riff, great guitar passages and a sheer brilliant Manfred Mann-like keyboardsolo!! In the Pink Floyd-like track "Turn Back The Clock" RPWL also comes up with an Asia/Mike Oldfield-like melody and ofcourse a briliant guitar solo by Karl-Heinz Wallner!
Unfortunately RPWL cannot keep up that high musical level during the entire CD as songs like "Breath In,Breath Out" or "Where I Can Go" are "just" nice melodic rock songs, nothing more than that! The absolute misser on this album is the song "River", which is a super boring acoustic song. RPWL covers Bob Dylan's "Masters Of War" - a song way back from 1963! - and the David Gilmour-like solo gives me gooseflesh all over!! Lyrically speaking the most interesting song is without any doubt "This Is Not A Prog Song", where the band deals with bad press reviews in a rather hilarious way.
RPWL certainly explores new musical horizons on this album as some songs even sound raw and unpolished, but you can say that there is a lot
to enjoy on this CD as at least 3 songs have magical compositional and highly technical class. Looking forward to hearing these songs n the flesh I can only say: buy or die and
skip "River" to listen to a great prog rock album!!
AXEL RUDI PELL: "Live Over Europe" DVD 8
Whenever a guitarist gives himself top billing, I always get a little scared. I think it's Yngwie Malmsteen's fault, because I just expect a load of pretentious wank from the chosen one whilst his disposable bandmates are shoved to one side. Axel Rudi Pell is a new one on me, as I've heard his name over the years but none of his music. Yes, I know – bad rock journalist!
“Live Over Europe” is a fairly massive double DVD, weighing in at an afternoon filling three and a half hours. 75 minutes of this is a full performance from last years Rock Hard festival. I didn't quite know what to expect, so it was a nice surprise when ARP and his band turned out to be purveyors of high quality Euro metal. ARP himself doesn't hog the stage for twenty minute guitar solos, instead he just does his job, unsurprisingly being rather good at it. Indeed, drummer Mike Terrana (who looks like something out of a He Man cartoon) gets the solo spot, turning in one of the more entertaining drum solos I've seen. Special mention must also be made of singer Johnny Gioeli, who has a great voice and commends the stage very well. The concert features ten songs and there's not a duffer in sight. As well as their own works, such as “Strong As A Rock”, “Tear Down the Walls” and “Mystica”, I also noticed a Montrose cover in “Rock The Nation”, which was a nice surprise. In addition, the sound is crisp and the camerawork is as good as you'd want. I can see myself buying some of the ARP back catalogue very soon after seeing this, so I guess it must do it's job.
The second disc is an Official Bootleg, featuring snippets from various other shows filmed in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The songs featured are mostly the same as on the main disc, although there are four additions, including the excellent instrumental piece “Haunted Castle Serenade”. Some tracks from disc one are repeated here another two times, which is a bit of an overkill, but for big fans of the band it will not be too much of a bother. The sound and direction quality varies from set to set (there are 8 different shows taken in here), but all are watchable and the performances professional.
If you're already a fan then I'm sure you don't need reviews to tell you this is a very good buy. The bonus disc makes it great value, and even without it the main concert is reason enough to invest. If you're even a casual fan I would certainly recommend “Live Over Europe” as one of the better concert DVDs I've seen recently.
BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE: "Scream Aim Fire" 8
This first BFMV album "The Poison" was a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I'm not really into "metalcore" or whatever this band's genre is supposed to be, but that album had some cool moments, despite the "cookie monster vocals". When the initial reports of the new album suggested that this would be more aggressive and heavier than the debut, I thought that I really shouldn't bother. But whaddaya know, here I am blasting this album on my stereo once again, and liking it. A lot.
It's true that this album might be a bit faster and possibly a bit more aggressive than "The Poison", but what was missing from the pre-release hype was the fact that this album is also more accessible. The melodies are stronger, the riffs are catchier and the "cookie monster" makes fewer appearances. There are also a couple of almost AOR-like moments, but we'll get to that later.
The title track is the first song, and it leaps from the speakers as if the band were trying to make a point that they haven't mellowed out. The breakneck speed and the furious riffs give a good kickstart for the album, even though the song isn't one of my favourites. There's no time to take a breath as the band jumps straight into "Eye Of The Storm", another frantic track yet still quite melodic.
"Heart Burst Into Fire" might come as a shock to the band's fans, as it's really a supercharged melodic rock track, with riffs straight from the "Classic 80'ies hard rock handbook" and a fantastic chorus. Funny, their previous album was called "The Poison", and now they sound like "Poison"... In contrast, "Waking The Demon" is probably the album's most aggressive track, but still it contains a solid chorus hook.
"Disappear" is a good example of the band's knack for cool and catchy riffs, and again, the chorus is good. Still, it's the guitarists who steal the show on this track. Same could be said for the slightly more mellow "Deliver Us From Evil". "Say Goodnight" is a Metallica-like ballad with a surprise cookie monster attack around the 3:00 mark, so be warned... The uptempo "End Of Days" has solid riffs but it could use a decent chorus, while "The Last To Know" does have that but the song itself relies too much on the screamo factor.
The biggest surprise is saved for last, and it is surely going to make some of the fans scream "sell-out". "Forever And Always" is semi-balladic track with a riff that's very similar to a dozen AOR tracks or so, Y&T's "Don't Stop Runnin'" and Paul Laine's "Dorianna" to name a couple... I wasn't expecting to find such an overtly AOR'ish track on this album for sure, but I ain't complaining!
The Japanese edition of the album contains another suprise, a superb cover of Robert Tepper's "No Easy Way Out". It might just be the cover version of the year, with brilliant keyboards (!) and fine vocals from Matt Tuck. I was half-expecting it to be more of a joke or something, but that's not what it is. There are several "videos" of it at YouTube where you check it out, before starting to hunt down a Jap import.
GINGER: "Market Harbour" 8
Cargo Records 2008
When Ginger (he of Wildhearts fame) releases a new solo album, people tend to sit up and take notice, partly because they're usually rather good, and partly because you don't know what to expect when the little silver disc starts to spin in the CD player. With Wildhearts records you have a good idea of the sort of thing that will come out of the speaker, but Ginger seems happy to save all his inner oddness for solo stuff these days.
“Market Harbour” is a progression from his other two solo efforts, in that it really is a fasciniating musical journey from start to finish. Gaze at the back cover and you'll see twenty one tracks listed, but not all of these are bona fide songs, with the shorter material being musical interludes that link longer songs together. Fans of The Wildhearts may not like all they hear, as although a couple of tracks, such as “Queen Of Leaving”, will bring to mind the man's other band, mostly this is much more laid back and philosophical.
Mostly, the whole thing works rather well. From catchy upbeat opener “Casino Bay” through to the dark, moody closing of “Shatterproof”, the album contains a well balanced mish mash of genuinely great songs, oddities and Irish ditties. Naturally, there's nothing amiss with Ginger's vocal presentation, and he's also served well by the 30+ group of people guesting on various instruments or vocals. (It's worth noting that Ginger himself plays no less than thirteen instruments including guitars, bass and drums.)
The joy of “Market Harbour” is that you can easily cherry pick several tracks to just listen to on their own, or you have the option of taking the whole thing as a sort of concept piece and listen to it all in one flowing session. Either way, it has a lot to recommend it, although it does steal U2's riff for “I Still haven't Found What I'm looking For”. Mind you, U2 probably stole it off an old Irish folk song, so who's complaining. This may be a little odd for some, but I think it's a worthy addition to any collection that wants for a little Ginger colouring.
JADED SUN: "Gypsy Trip" 7
Sian Records 2008
“Gypsy Trip” is described in the press release as a “sleazy, blues drenched debut album”, and it's hard to disagree with such an accurate summation of the Irish band. Think Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones and The Black Crowes and you're definitely in the right place, as it seems Jaded Sun are happy to take the old timers blues coloured baton and run with it.
The album certainly starts off with a bang. “Breaking Through” is easily the best song by the band and it leaps out at you like a Scooby Doo villain, all soul and vibrance. It's followed by “Crazy Man”, a real foot stomper, and at this point I thought this might be the best album of it's type for many a year. Vocalist John Maher has a superb voice, more Mississippi than Dublin, and his powerful delivery raises the songs as high as they can go. “Fever” keeps up the blistering pace, but then the band run out of steam a little when they slow it down for “Hey You”. It's a nice enough piano led honky tonk track, but after the first three its Black Crowes vibe feels like a bit of a let down.
The rest of the album is in a similar vein, as when Jaded Sun crank it up they are amazing, but when they slow down they're just another blues rock band. “Can't Stop” and “Positive”, for example, are peerless songs with real pace and absurdly catchy choruses. The likes of “Sweetness” or “Crave”, however, will not be getting the prized permanent residency on my iPod. When they're on fire, Jaded Sun would scorch a desert, so I would urge you to check them out. For me, though, “Gypsy Kiss” is most of a great album that is held back by a need to balance out the power with a little relaxation.
Andre MATOS: "Time To Be Free" 6
Brazilian Andre Matos, well known to many for his excellent work with the likes of Angra and Shamen, has decided it's “Time To be Free” and take responsibility for a whole album under his own name. The guy's been dabbling in metal since he was fourteen, and so has a pretty good grasp on the mechanics of the genre.
I've heard “Time To Be Free” described as Power Metal, perhaps because this is what he was doing with Angra back in the day. Personally, I prefer to put it more in the Melodic Metal category, along with the likes of Helloween and Kamelot. There's a good hour of music here, but no matter how many times I have listened to it I find it hard to really get a good hold of. There's certainly no doubting that the songwriting and musicianship are top notch, with as Matos himself providing some soaring vocals somewhere between Andi Deris and Geoff Tate. Maybe it's the fact that all of the songs are five minutes or more long, meaning that if you like more of a quick fix from your music you'll get a bit bored at times.
Rather than just rely on riffs and blinding solos, Matos has made sure that each song has it's own unique structure, often using keyboards or strings to carry the atmosphere along and wandering into prog metal territory more than once. For the shredders there's plenty of widdly guitar along with some fine meaty riffs, whilst proggers may get off on the slower sections. It's a sort of something for everybody album that doesn't quite hold together as a whole. It's actually disappointing, because I really have tried to like this more than I do, but I know in the end I won't be returning to this very often in the future.
THE TANGENT: "Not As Good As The Book" 5
Inside Out Records 2008
"A Place In The Queue" was not really my favourite prog rock album of the year 2006 and this new Tangent album will also not get a place in my top ten of 2008. The double album is again too tiresome, too jazzy, too funky and I really do NOT like sax solos in prog rock. Besided the vocals of Andy Tillison really get on my nerves and there is not really a decent prog rock song on this album that actually deserves the label prog ROCK. Only the guitar solos and melodies of Tangent newcomer Jakko Jakszyk are worthwhile listening to...
Songs like "The Ethernet", "A Sale Of Two Souls" or "Lost In London' are very boring tracks filled with flute, sax, dramatic vocals and weird jazzy musical passages. The only decent song on the first CD is the instrumental "Celebrity Puree" where at least you can actually enjoy a nice guitar solo.
The second CD only features two songs, one lasts 21 minutes and the other one 22 minutes! Both are real retro prog songs and during the last epic one called "The Full Gamut' I almost fell asleep.....
Another disapointing album of The Tangent, sad but true.. Only die hard retro prog fans will like this one I am afraid.....
DELIVERANCE: "As Above, So Below" 4
Retroactive Records 2008
Deliverance have returned after a six year break to deliver their ninth studio album, although I doubt their name will ring too many bells with Rock United readers. This is good old fashioned heavy metal with Christian leanings from a bunch of Americans who obviously care about what they do.
Although I'm not a god botherer myself I was happy to give “As Above, So Below” a chance, especially after having sat through two godawful death metal albums previous to putting it on. It's not bad, really, but Deliverance seem to be facing an uphill struggle to get over the hurdle marked 'Average'. The music is fast and furious without being a mess, but the riffs are ones you have heard a million times before and Jimmy Browns vocals are painfully average. He doesn't exactly shout, but he doesn't exactly sing either, straddling the two without much success. The best part of the album is the eleven minute “Thistles”, which features some excellent guitarwork and song building, although there is still the 'heard it all before' feeling.
“As Above, So Below” doesn't inspire any real feelings in me, it's just another metal album. Deliverance just haven't got the songwriting talent to make it a worthwhile purchase even for devout lovers of the likes of Slayer. A big fat “meh” from me then.
STIGMA: "When Midnight Strikes" 3
Pivotal recordings 2008
Hurrah! More death metal! This time it's Italian horror movie enthusiasts Stigma, a band not too embarrassed to deliver songs called “I Am Dracula”, “Blood, Your Precious Blood”, and “To Be Really Dead – That Must Be Glorious”. I wonder if I'll like them...
In fairness, Stigma actually deliver some pretty good music here, well balanced pure metal with some nice guitar and thundering rhythm. The main problem is that ever present death metal staple: shit vocals. Vlad the vocalist (guess he gave up impaling) shouts unintelligibly in a vaguely musical way without ever changing, helping each song to sound the same as the last as they gallop by like a horse with dysentery. By track four I was bored, and all it took was a little mouse clicking to realize that every single song was going to be almost identical, a police line up of musical turds, none of which stand out as the especially guilty party. Stigma have some talent, but seem happy to waste it churning out identikit death metal for the masses.
TRASHCANNED: "Redemption" 2
Noise Head Records 2008
So... this is, um, pretty shouty. Trashcanned are an Austrian act who play a “melodic death/modern thrash mix”, which basically means they are a death metal band with a keyboard player. What they are mostly is very metal, with the eleven songs on this, their debut album, coming at you like shit flung by a very angry monkey.
My main problem with bands like Trashcanned is the vocals. I have never liked shouty vocals where you can't understand a bloody word, which is the main reason I wouldn't touch Cradle Of Filth with someone else's shitty stick. I don't care if you sing about God, the Devil or pink bunnies, as long as I can actually make it out. Vocalist Tim Sklenitzka just shouts a lot in a language that could be German, English or one he just made up for all I know. He's not helped by the fact that the songs themselves are pretty standard death metal fare, with some good riffs and solos but very little imagination. They're probably a good buzz live, but ultimately boredom sets in and the listener will want to have a nice sit down, a cup of tea and a Carpenters record to wash this rubbish out of their system. Next please.
|REVIEWS ADDED 11 February, 2008
LECHERY: "Violator" 8
Neither the album title nor the music of this Swedish metal band may be any original but Lechery is definitely good fun melodic metal. Musically the album reminded me of early WASP and I meant it as a compliment. Simple but kick-ass guitar-work, tight rhythm section, and confident vocals with memorable melodies, everything that should make fans of the genre happy.
Big credits should go to Martin Bengtsson guitarist/vocalist for the production as the album sounds just like a metal album should, thick, roaring guitars, thundering drums and bombastic choruses characterize the otherwise very balanced mix. There is no unnecessary guitar- wizardry, you may as well call the tunes simple but they do their job and that is to entertain. Not many of the metal albums of the last couple of years did that to me.
The total running time of 48 minutes and the 11
tracks can be considered normal, the artwork and the packaging meets today's
(rather low, stereotyped, fantasy-less) standards, musically the album is better
than what its cover suggests. Recommended indeed.
TILES: "Fly Paper" 8
Inside Out Records 2008
The Detroit based foursome Tiles have always been a much underrated band, although they have already released two masterpieces of rock being: "Presents Of Minds"(1999) and "Fence The Clear"(1997). The music of Tiles is a mix of Queensryche, Jethro Tull, Iron Maiden, Primus, but foremost Rush. As a matter of fact I can say that if you like Rush - like yours truly - then you will like Tiles and especially this album as well. This is also due to the fact that "Fly Paper" is produced by former Rush sound engineer Terry Brown. This CD really brings back memories of Rush's "Permanent Waves", which Brown produced and mixed back in 1980!!
This fifth studio recording of Tiles features 8 new songs and the album really has an accessible song-oriented rock focus with lots of interesting guitar solos and passages. Opening song "Hide In My Shadow" sets the tone with those typical Rush-like rhythms and melodies and this song almost has a catchy chorus. "Sacred & Mundane" shows a mandolin intro followed by lots of nerve racking guitar riffs and a howling wah-wah guitar solo. As to the vocals I must say that singer Paul Rarick has a distinct hate-or-love voice, just like Geddy Lee, in fact....
The two true musical highlights are: "Back & Forth" and "Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds"(nice title
by the way). Both tracks are filled with great riffs, tempo changes, sparkling guitar solos and even melodic choruses. There are
guest performances by vocalist Alannah Miles (she sang "Black Velvet", remember that one?), guitar player Kim Mitchell and Hugh
Syme, who plays keyboards on two songs. "Fly Paper" is definitely much better than "Window Dressing", as it is more rock-oriented
and much more multi-faceted. This new album is heavier, has more guitar solos and the sound is absolutely powerful!
Tiles is back at their high musical level which we already heard on previous albums!! Buy and enjoy!!!
AUDREY HORNE: "Le Fol" 7
Indie Recordings 2008
Just so you all know, Audrey Horne was a character in Twin Peaks, the notoriously mental series by notorious mentalist David Lynch. Personally, I think David Lynch is one of the worst film makers in history, but don't let this put you off exploring the band, who have universally impressed with this follow up to their 2005 debut.
Hailing from Norway, Audrey Horne seem very at home bringing grunge music kicking and screaming into 2008. This is not to say that “Le Fol” is just a Nirvana copy that should be burned at the stake. No, and not by a long shot. This is grunge by way of metal, with the album containing some truly massive guitars and no small amount of melody. Think Alice In Chains and Faith No More having a fight underwater with the Foo Fighters on dolphins made of metal and you'll be halfway there. Now that's a weird mental picture...
“Le Fol” follows a pretty consistent formula in the main, building up each song from a moody intro to a guitar fueled crescendo, most notably on “Bright Lights”, a song that tries to send you to sleep before leaping out at you like a homicidal maniac armed with a bloody chainsaw. There really is a multitude of great riffs stuffed in this album, all of them heavy as fuck with no punches pulled. Vocalist Toschie has a decent voice without being overly memorable, but it's the sphincter tightening music behind him that really makes “Le Fol” a worthwhile purchase. So, hats off to Ice Dale and Thomas on guitar, not forgetting Kjetil, whose drums really hold everything together.
“Le Fol” has been a tricky album to review for me, as the songs won't stick in my head despite repeated listens. That said, every time I go back to it I thoroughly enjoy the music. There's a real passion and power about the album that picks you up and carries you along. I can see where some people might find it a little repetitive, as there's not a great deal of variety, and it can be hard going in places (final track “So Long Euphoria” is a real drag), but it's still a good album, if not the masterpiece some have claimed. I think if you hear a couple of tracks and are impressed this will be a worthwhile purchase, so I recommend you visit the MySpace site first and see what you think.
DEADSTRING BROTHERS: "Silver Mountain" 6
Metal Heaven 2008
Fans of bands like The Black Crowes or The Rolling Stones should be in for a little treat with “Silver Mountain”, the second release from Detroit's Deadstring Brothers (only two of whom are brothers). Yes, it's time to dig out the old honky tonk piano and slide guitars, cos we all gonna have us a rockin' good time!
Well, a reasonably rockin' good time, anyway. You see, when the Deadstring Brothers get it right, they deliver some cool, laid back alternative country southern style rock shenanigans that will have you tapping your feet and scaring the cat by shouting “Yeee-Haw!” every so often. Tracks like “Ain't No Hidin' Love” and “Heavy Load” roll along at a nice pace and deliver a nice vibe that will endear them to the listener with no problems. The title track slows things down, but is a very moving, powerful piece, helped by female vocalist Masha, who shares singing duties with main songwriter and guitarist Kurt Marsehke. Both of them have great voices, perfect for this style of music.
The thing is, “Silver Mountain” isn't a great album, merely a good one. When the songs don't work, such as “Some Kind Of User” or “Rollin' Blues”, it seems to be because they are trying too hard to be someone else and end up delivering rather yawnsome songs. On top of this, some of the more pure Country orientated songs don't sit too well with the full on honky tonk stuff. So, much as a like some of the stuff here, it's an incomplete album that indicates that maybe the band need to choose a direction and go for it with both barrels. Could do better.
MCM: "1900 Hard Times" 4
There has never been a more fitting album title for an instrumental album than this… I have to say so regardless how much I love some of Alex Masi's albums and respect both Randy Coven and John Macaluso. But this almost an hour-long album ain't much more than "just" headless jamming, endless masturbation on instruments, that will give you a "hard time" to chew yourselves through and a sure headache somewhere around 07:35 if you are as weak as I am and around 13:42 if you are as tough as a deaf hyppo.
The album is a collection of live recordings, judging from the size of the audience, on a tour of either small clubs or guitar clinics and the tunes are obviously intended to showcase the improvisational ability of the players. Which is great and they must be having a good time but the result is everything but entertaining, especially for almost an hour.
Even if there are a few good licks here and there and a lot to learn from for guitar-freaks, this is just a cheap excuse to release "something". No songs to write, orchestrate, produce, no studio time to pay for, and a typical contemporary "art"work and packaging to go with. Not recommended to anybody else but absolute free-jazz improvisation maniacs. If there are still any. There must be cuz someone attended these shows…
|REVIEWS ADDED 08 February, 2008
VIRON: "Ferrum Gravis" 8
Metal Heaven 2008
As I write this it's a moody February Monday, with dark, moody skies and the sort of rain that makes you want to kill bunnies. You know, typical British winter. There's something about power metal (or 'true metal', or whatever you want to call it, I could care less) that suits a good old British Winters day, as on a blazing hot Summer afternoon (we usually have about 4 of these) it just wouldn't work. I imagine that they get this sort of weather in Germany as well, which may be why they do this sort of thing so well. It's a theory...
As a band, Viron (which means 'of Estonia' in Finnish, fyi) have been around for a few years, with 'Ferrum Gravis' following their rather well received debut 'NWOGHM'. I assume this stands for New Wave Of German Heavy Metal', though for all I know it could be the name of one of the band's kitten or something. As with that album, Viron do not fuck about on album number two, filling it with some exceptional power metal that can't fail to find favour with fans of the genre. It's all thrashing drums and widdly guitars, naturally, but Viron find the time to structure their songs so that they owe more than a little to old school metal bands whilst keeping their own thing going at the same time. Nice trick if you can do it.
One surprise here is that four tracks in they throw the listener off kilter with 'War', a haunting tune with absolutely no crunching guitars or pounding drums (or any drums at all!). Instead, it's a cracking ballad that really reminds you of The Scorpions before they discovered whistling. It really showcases Alexx Stahl's voice, more so than when he is forced to belt out the heavy material. The song is a brave move on an album like this, but works much like 'Eva' did on Nightwish's last album, providing a respite from the madness around it. Elsewhere, the meatier stuff all works just as well, with the album delivering a killer punch in the final track 'Sniper', which gives you eleven minutes of dramatic power metal that hits the spot like the worlds finest zit cream.
'Ferrum Gravis' is a fine album, one that will appeal to power metal purists and old school metal fans alike. It's not just an excuse to shout and play fast guitars, but a talented exercise in well balanced songwriting, possibly the best example since 'Dark Passion Play', although not as complex in execution. With a little luck, Viron may make a huge impact with their second album, and I have a feeling that the third may be the best yet.
WHEN THE EMPIRE FALLS: "S/T" 7
Poko/Gaga Goodies 2008
I was quite impressed by this band's single a while ago. On the single they mixed elements of thrash and progressive metal to catchy choruses and what's more, they had a fine vocalist. These things still remain true, but can they live up to the exceptations set by the two tracks of the single? Almost, but not quite.
"The Blood In Your Hands" was the band's first single, and it's a suitable opener, showcasing the band's strengths - the ferocious riffs, the catchy hooks and fine vocal work. The same vibe continues in the next few songs, including the band's "title song" and my personal favourite "Wasted Times". Once we get to the fifth song though, the songs start to sound a bit too similar for their own good. There are a few of rather similar intros, and in every song the band seems to drop the tempo once they get to the chorus.
"Ghosts" and "Sinner" are exceptions to the formula. "Ghosts" keeps up its' frantic pace throughout the song, while "Sinner" is a bit Metallica-like ballad. The remaining three songs do follow the formula more or less again, and I'm afraid that none of them really stand out. The album is closed with a short acoustic instrumental, which works as a counterpart to the heavy riffola of the other songs, if nothing else.
So, in conclusion... There's a bit of Maiden in there, a bit of Metallica here and maybe even a bit of Bullet For My Valentine somewhere in between but most of all, quite a lot of When The Empire Falls. That's a good thing, and once the band still sharpens their hooks and gets rid of "the formula", they are capable of bringing an excellent album to the table.
MEXICOLAS: "X" 7
Exile Records 2008
The UK is always happy to shove yet another indie rock band in the faces of the baying public, and this moth it's the turn of Mexicolas, a young three piece from the Midlands who have been getting a very positive reaction to their singles “Shame” and “Come Clean”.
Mexicolas may not be the band who are going to finally set the world on fire, but they certainly know the value of a good tune. Their music successfully straddles the line between indie friendly bands like The Killers or Stereophonics and more intense pounding rock such as Queens Of the Stone Age. “Shame”, especially, is a pulse quickening injection of pure rock, bolstered by some great, angry sounding vocals from Jamie Evans. Nice.
The album is helped immensely by a crisp, solid production from Danny Sprigg and Gavin Monagham, who between them have worked with the likes of Lostprophets and Ryan Adams. The Mexicolas fit nicely in between those two acts, with “Time Infinity” being especially Adams-esque, crawling along like a stoat with three broken legs before livening up a bit towards the end.
“X” could certainly see the Mexicolas getting a toehold in the British rock scene, as it's a very solid and entertaining album. What they really need is a killer single and video to get their name out that bit more. If that happens, I think that most people who pick up this album will be happy they did so. As debuts go, it's a good indication of where the band wants to be, and a good indication that they have every chance of getting there. Worth checking out on their website, and if you like what you hear give it a go.
CROWN OF GLORY: "A Deep Breath Of Life" 6
Metal Heaven 2008
Crown Of Glory are Swiss melodic metal band who have previously released two critically acclaimed minialbums. This, their first full album is released via the Metal Heaven label, originally an off-shoot of the AOR Heaven label. These days it's the bigger label of the two with a steady release schedule of 2-3 albums a month.
"A Deep Breath Of Life" is a peculiar album. I've played it quite a few times, and while it's okay to listen to, only a few of the songs leave a lasting impression. Practically most of these songs have something going for them, be it a classy melodic hook or some cool keyboard work or whatever, but once the CD is off the player, I find myself struggling to remember any of the songs.
The album gets a flying start with "The Calling", a track featuring lively keyboards and a decent chorus. A bit of a Royal Hunt vibe there, yet the closest comparison would be COG's labelmates Saidian. Both bands work in the same genre, and both bands have vocalists with somehow strained voices. Heinz Muther is a capable singer with a respectable range, but I can't help it, I just don't particulary enjoy his sound. He even takes a go at the cookie monster vocals on "The Raven's Flight", which doesn't win him any extra points from me...
The best tracks of the album for my money are "Inspiration", a Stravarius-like stomper, and the highly melodic "Anthem Of The End" and "Mirror Mirror" and the ballad "The Lament Of The Sun", on which vocalist Muther is at his best. In the end, there's too much less impressive material on the album, which may prevent it from standing out on the over-saturated melodic metal market.
|REVIEWS ADDED 26 January, 2008
SPIDERS & SNAKES: "Melodrama" 8
Where do they come up with all the monikers? Spiders & Snakes saga starts however in the late 70's (as documented in the Mötley Crue biography: The Dirt) with roots in the L.A. band 'Sister' featuring future WASP frontman Blackie Lawless, guitarist Lizzie Grey, and Nikki Sixx. The latter pair went on to form 'London' with a bunch of future Guns N Roses members and would pen down the Crue classic 'Public Enemy #1" (later featured on the Crue debut 'Too Fast For Love').
Blimey, the info-sheet is full of name dropping and remarks that date back 25+ years in time. You'd first think that Lizzie Grey went underground and didn't appear on stage again until present date. Nothing could be further from the truth though as Grey's been out there ever since... but has never found the enormous fame and fortune of his former band mates.
"Melodrama" is however their brand new studio album and it simply reeks of late 70's/early 80's Glam Rock. You'll get your dose of KISS, Bowie, Alice Cooper (check out the semi-ballads 'Rock And Roll With You' and 'The Way') as well as a cover of Bay City Rollers' "Yesterday's Hero", and pure Cheap Trick rockers in the style of "Shoot Me Down".
I must confess that I didn't expect much and ended up rather surprised by the high quality of both songwriting and production. "Friends Like You" kicks the CD into gear and without a doubt, "Melodrama" is one of Lizzie's most gloriously rock moments yet. It's music with an infectious groove and a dazzeling sense of melody that would have most mainstream rockers in shame. It's soundwise v-e-r-y much in the style of 'Bob Ezrin' and all those KISS and Alice albums of the 70's. The bonus DVD that comes with 40 minutes of live music, slide show, and interviews, are just for fun, and yes, you'll get Lizzie's version of Public Enemy No 1. - Good Stuff!!!
EMPIRE: "Chasing Shadows" 7
Empire is another all-star / old-fart band… as you like it. However if you play Chasing Shadows you will not opt for the latter moniker for sure, as the veteran line-up delivered an album full of fresh energy with an up-to-date sound. No nostalgia crap here. For the third Empire album guitarist / name owner / studio man Rolf Munkes recruited Doogie White and Mike Terrana while sticking to Neil Murray. An impressive line-up both in age and in weight for sure but as I mentioned earlier, this ain't no bland nostalgia-ride but a kick-ass modern melodic metal album.
It opens with a suprisingly heavy sounding trio of uptempo songs with aggressive guitar sound and concrete solid rhythm section. Quite honestly the overall sound of these tracks was a bit too edgy and depressingly (contemporary, 7-string?) heavy for my taste. But the midtempo tracks like "Sail Away", with a catchy verse guitar lick and a memorable refrain and the Black Sabbath-like "Child of the Light" is exactly what I expected: big time melodic hard rock with huge refrains and solid musicianship. I always like Mike's fitness drum-patterns, "Tahigwan Nights" gives you an idea what I'm talking about, the solo is also cool, the vocal harmonies are great, I only wish I could forget about the lyrics.
But for those who are into lyrics, there's
always "Angel and the Gambler", another cool midtempo track, and one of my
favorites of the album. Any self-respecting Whitesnake fan would lick his
fingers hearing it. You'll get the necessary(?) (power) ballad in the form of "A
Story Told", not bad but nothing really impressive and the album is finished
with another depressing contemporary metal track called "The Rulers of the
World", not something that helped my rating, I have to add. The 10 tracks and 48
minutes of running time is acceptable, the packaging of the album is also okay,
so all in all you get value for your money. Just don't expect classic hard rock,
be prepared for a very 21st century version of that.
AYREON: "01011001" 7
Inside Our Records 2008
This seventh Ayreon album is a bit disappointing as especially CD1 is too predictable and there are almost no musical surprises anymore. Altough all of the tracks are musically speaking of a very high quality they all sound too familiar to me. Lots of melodies and riffs from other albums can be heard on this new CD and the album is a bit less bombastic than the previous ones. Most of the male voices sound a bit too much of the same, so it is hard to hear the difference between certain characters. The best vocal performance is given by Jorn, Bob Catley and Anneke van Giersbergen, whose vocallines really dominate this album. The vocal parts of Simone (Epica) and Floor (After Forever) are again a bit too predictable, especially the last track of CD1, "Web Of Lies", is a super boring piano ballad..... On the first CD I only like "Age Of Shadows" and "Beneath The Waves". The other songs are just rather mediocre symphonic, almost musical-like material, with too much vocals and too less guitar parts!! The first CD lasts 50 minutes but I wonder where the rock parts are; most of the material is much too sweet and miss a certain rocky/metal edge!!
The second part of this rock opera is much better and here finally the music comes to life. This CD kicks off with "The Fifth Extinction", a long epic track with lots of heavy riffs - finally!! - an amazing keyboardsolo by Derek Sherinian and a rather short but melodic guitar solo. "Waking Dreams" and "Unnatural Selection" are also great rock songs filled with lots of interesting musical passages and also some great vocal lines. However "River Of Time" is again a true disappointment but Arjen makes this up with the two last songs "E=MC2" and "The Sixth Extinction". The latter being one of the highlights of this album, as it is a really bombastic, symphonic rock track with all the typical Ayreon works.
So, the conclusion is that CD 2 is much better than CD1 and that previous albums such as "The Human Equation" or "Into The Electric Castle"
still belong to his better work. Sad but true, I am a bit disappointed...
SANDALINAS: "Fly To The Sun" 6
Whenever you get an album from a lesser-known act, you look for comparisons to introduce them to the 'public'. So when I first played the opening/title track "Fly To The Sun" of the Sandalinas album, I thought to myself, hey, it's like Iron Maiden but much better than that. Then I downloaded the press-kit for the album and saw that I wasn't all that far away as Jordi Sandalinas guitarist/namesake/songsmith claims to be heavily influenced by Adrian Smith.
It's not always that obvious because the album continues in more contemporary heavy metal fashion with "Never Seen Before" and the depressive "Bad Dreams". The acoustic interlude is a welcome addition to wash away some of my depression but "No Matter What" drags me back to it. For whatever reason the entire album and almost all the lyrics have a rather dark approach, titles like "As the Rain Falls", "The Wrong Side of Me", "Shadows in the Rain" or "Seasons in the Sand" definitely suggest so.
You can't complain about anything really here,
the songs are well-written, there's stunning musicianship, good vocal work, and
decent production all over the album. Yet other than the promising title track
and the catchy midtempo "The Healer Talks", none of the songs could really grab
me as they all have a certain dark tone that gets overwhelming after two or
three songs. Perfect album for a serious hangover but you won't play it at the
party the night before.
Keith LuBRANT: "Searching For Signal" 5
Keith LuBrant is from the same place outside of New York where legends such as Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Danger Danger (nah, erase the latter) first stepped into the limelight. Yep, he's a Jersey kid with a thing for songwriting and one liners in the style of the Sopranos (shut up or end up in Jersey river with concrete shoes).
"Searching For Signal" is his sophomore effort and the musical direction has taken a turn for mature Pop/Rock. In fact, "Too Late" is remarkably close to the sound of Crowded House, and the following, "I Survived", could just as easily have been a song and dance number by The Rembrandts. I kind of enjoy his passion for music though as he always tries to sneak in a hook and/or refrain to please the in-crowd.
However, LuBrant doesn't always succeed in his tricks to keep the audience in awe. The namby-pamby melodies of tunes such as: "Searching For Signal" or "February Day", dont always strike the right key or melody as it's almost too sweet and fluffy to play at high volume. Dude, there's no need to mutter around like an old gnome over your average 'Signal' or 'Day' problems. The clatter and clamour of 'poor-me' chants will eventually drive you to stop the CD and instead just play some good, old, Crowded House of the late 80's.
FREUND HEIN: "Chaos Immanent" 4
I wonder what the Austrian tapwater contains, but it must've effected these guys seriously. Freund Hein is one of the weirdest bands to embark to the metal scene from the country, although some might think they're genious. For me they're more schizoid than Mr. Bungle ever was, adding in some of the latest metal influences, although I have to admit there's certainly some geniousness here.
Having been a fan of Mr. Bungle and FNM at their short period of success, since those days that style hasn't really moved me much anymore. Freund Hein is a very complex band, that can be described either with only few words or hundreds. I'll stick to few. They're angry and humourous, mix punk, grind, doom, metal and theatrical drama in cheap System Of A Down vein, or are just otherwise sick like fellow countrymen Pungent Stench, or who knows, genious.
The three aforesaid possible band influences might give a picture about Freund Hein style, add in some Voivod as well. I find their style to be too vague and underground for bigger audience, and the guys seem to be a bit agnostic about their musical style, be it they've been together since 1994, the cd sounds good and the guys do play well. Something close to System Of A Down should be the right direction for them, but with tighter arrangements. A provoking band though, who's future is hard to predict. I'd still drop the freaky clown act, it never carries far, unless you do it as stylishly as SOAD. Otherwise you might just join the circus.
BLACK MOUNTAIN: "In The Future" 2
Black Mountain has taken many different sounds and musical influences (The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly), and pulled them all together to create something that sounds like a serious road accident between the milk-man and pig-on-wheels. Ahem, in plain "english", there's an awful lot of oink-oink's and glass shattering moments on this record.
You'll also get a strange, yet, familiar feeling of deja vu' (strange but familiar... what the???). Heck, if you didn't know who this was while listening to the CD for the first time, you'd think it was any number of other bands. Yeah, ehem, that makes sense, it's sort of like saying 'I knew it was 'that' artist as soon as you told me his/her name'. Anyhow, there's an obvious lack of ideas and memorable melodies on "In The Future". It's actually an horrid display of flat, lifeless, and turgid hippie rock of the late 60's.
|REVIEWS ADDED 21 January, 2008
SAINT DEAMON: "In Shadows Lost From The Brave" 8
Saint Who? Oh... it's one of those acts in the vein of Dream Evil, (the melodic side of) Primal Fear, Helloween. Quick skipping the opening intro and thought for a minute that I was listening to a slow polka version of "Creeping Death". Nope, no such luck. "My Judas" reveal a more melodic metal approach (the main riff is close to the work of Metallica though).
The following title track could have been the work of Helloween in this century. Next track, "My Heart", is an excellent display of melodic (bombastic) metal. It sounds like a distant cousin to Primal Fear and especially their, "Fighting The Darkness", tune. Not that strange perhaps when you consider that Saint Deamon drummer, Ronny Milianowicz, co-wrote both songs. Yep, these are the Swedes that artists such as Can (Hammerfall), Primal Fear, Sinner, etc, has been co-writing songs with in the past.
Vocalist Jan Thore Grefstad is from Norway but is not of latest fashion. Grefstad has not as much been styled to fit the new thang' a few times as stood there and watched while the style would once again be all about headbanging and dodgy haircuts (or rather the lack of it). It's in the voice, I suppose, since he's almost got what it takes to battle upfront and close with both Jorn and Khan (Masterplan, Kamelot - the best Norwegian metal voices at the moment).
"In Shadows Lost From the Brave" may lack a couple of really catchy hooks and sing-a-long refrains to become truly essential stuff. However, you ceratinly can't go wrong here if you fancy your classy, European, (Scandinavian) Melodic Metal.
VERTIGO: "Takes Me Back" [Retro]
Not to be confused with the project by former TOTO vocalist, Joe Williams. This is the Canadian version of Vertigo and all songs were recorded as far back as 1989 and 1990. It's very much the "Canadian" sound of the 80's and you can safely name-drop acts such as: BLVD, Haywire, PRISM (the Henry Small days) and all the projects of unsung hero, Mark 'Freelance' LaFrance.
Add that the title track will remind you a lot of early Bryan Adams and you're in for a small treat. Vocalist, Cam van As, doesn't exactly shy away from the mike and from belting out emotional AOR vibes of the past. Indeed, the music of Vertigo is pink'n'fluffy all the way. The perfect stuff to play when the vibes are good and the beer is cool. It's happy, melodic, uptempo, and slightly 'dumb' rock that doesn't always reflect to a dark and damp reality of most people.
But seriously, that's what music is all about really, a brief escape and the perfect reason to leave all your trouble behind for a while. Nothing new, nothing fancy, just good, old, CATCHY, rock of the past and if you're a fan of above acts and former Renegade Sounds productions: check this out - a.s.a.p.
BASSINVADERS: "Hellbassbeaters" 7
Six-strings, who needs 'em? At least according to Bassinvaders (not to be confused with current UK no#1 act:: Basshunter) real guitars are made out of 4 and not 6 strings. Hang on a minute, bass-guitars comes with 4,5,6, and more strings if needed (unless you're that mad bloke 'Stig' from D.A.D. - sleeping your day away with merely one of 'em).
Ahem, anyhow, Bassinvaders is a German Metal project (what else? they're obviously all bonkers over there) put together by the bassplayer of Helloween, Markus Grosskopf. Mr.'Big Head' came up with the idea of recording an 'all-bass, no-guitars', album while sitting in a bar enjoying a few drinks and bratwursts mit sauer-kraut. Fellow teutonic rockers and legends: Tom Angelripper (Sodom), Peavy Wagner (Rage) and Schmier (Destruction), joined the mad hatter and they're all quickly off to adventure through the magical land of bass-lines.
"Hellbassbeaters" is basically a "normal" heavy metal album without a single note of guitars and tons of bass instead. You get vocals, rhythmic bass, drums, and bass/twin bass solo parts. They've even invited 13 famous bass-guitarist for solo appearances on the CD. To merely name-drop a few of them: Billy Sheehan (Mr.Big, Talas, DLR), Peter Baltes (Accept, Dokken), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy, Whitesnake, Quiet Riot), Jens Becker (Running Wild, Grave Digger), Joey Vera (Armored Saint, Anthrax, Fates Warning), etc, etc.
Guest singers are Apollo (Firewind, Evil Masquerade) and Jesper Binzer (D.A.D.). But seriously, at least Angelripper & Schmier surely must be responsible for some of the vocals, no? Marcel, Tom, no? It's funny though as you'll get a pure dose of 'Sodom' and 'Destruction' (aka tunes like: Armageddon, Godless Gods, etc) for each melody in the vein of 'Helloween' and 'Pink Cream 69' (We Live, Romance In Black, Empty Memories, and the cover of 'Eagle Fly Free' of course, etc). Binzer goes bananas during "The Asshole Song" and "Dead From The Eyes Down" is old, fashioned, teutonic, Trash, at its best.
Final verdict: You may miss the sound of guitars at first, but give this a couple of spins and you'll notice that most of the tracks work just fine anyhow. You'll get a feeling of the early Manowar albums (soundwise) and the material will surely please a majority of the teutonic Thrash/Metal fans. Wimps & posers - stay clear - there's no AOR to be found on this CD.
PORCUPINE TREE: "Nil Recurring" [EP]
Burp... huh? leftover from 2007? Well... I'm not really all that hungry after the holidays and all its food. What's that you say? Porcupine Tree? Sigh... well... ok... I'll have another go at the turkey as long as you bring me a new platter and lots to drink. Hey.... not too shabby. "Nil Recurring" is soul food to any Prog-Rock fan and clearly the product of a lifetime's obsession with the obscure and outcast.
Sure, it's merely a 4-track mini-album consisting of 30 minutes of music that didn't fit the bill of last years "Fear Of A Blank Planet". However, it's not like you could tell the old from the new anyhow. The absurdly all out Prog assault of "Normal", "Cheating The Polygraph" and "What Happens Now", might sum up the best side of rock according to Porcupine.
However, when it comes to sheer madness and spectacle, nothing tops their insane ga-ga of the title track. I should hate this as it's clearly very 'out there', hippie, acid, and it features Robert Fripp of King Crimson (the horror, the horror). Yet I find myself slowly drifting into a state of mind that most people would merely relate to pot and bong stories (Geez, I obviously need to be careful here or I'll turn into the thing I hate the most... a Hippie!!!).
Julian ANGEL: "Choreography Sucks" 3
Indeed, "Choreography Sucks". Next please. Nah, that's a bit harsh, wouldn't you say? Produced by Rolf "Empire" Munkes at the Empire studios in Germany, this surely came down as a surprise at my doorstep. Julian Angel recorded a decent Bon Jovi, Johnny Lima, kind of album in the early '00. Many moons later and the rocker returns with a new beat and a brand new album.
I don't mind the overall sound at all, it's rather hip and fresh in a Mötley Crue making out with Fergie while Poison, Prince, and Pink are having a threesome (or treesome?). The latter according to the info-sheet and I'm not the one to disagree. It's slamming beats with a modern goes retro kind of vibe and it all sounds like a great idea on paper (or on your PC screen). Well... I'm not entirelly sure about the 'Poison' influences as they were always kind of lame (ok, I did enjoy some Poison as a kid... but nowadays? nah...).
The basic song material however is rather samey-samey and you're basically fed up with the 'Angel' as you're listening to track three, "Sumthin' Huge". Out of all the slam-beat tracks, "Sucker Punch", would definitely end up as the winner. The rest are merely poor copies of the said track and you'll have to wait until track#7, "Bling Bling", to find a different angle and approach. Angel's got down the attitude, the fresh beat, and the crunching guitars. However, it's darn difficult to recall the melodies.
DISFEAR: "Live The Storm" 2
Using a mixture of metal, punk, and rock, the Disfear jump on the latest bandwagon without hitting the right nerve or key. The annoying vocal style sounds more like a serious catfight than anything and the screaming will make you shiver like a poor little victim in the hands of Gary Glitter. The music plow down a well worn path to create a completely one dimensional sound and it's difficult to stay awake during all those minutes of boredom.
Sure, it's easy to write down a not-so-flattering review about a CD and I'am ceratainly not bragging about my bashing skills. Nontheless, I can't help thinking that this could, should, would, have been so much better with a decent songwriter among their ranks. Humbug.
|REVIEWS ADDED 15 January, 2008
AIRBOURNE: "Runnin' Wild" 9
Roadrunner Records 2008
Strewth! These Aussie battlers stand out like a shag on a rock with their debut album. Too right! This fair dinkum album gave me a suck of the sav on the first spin, leaving me grinning like a shot fox. If you like the rock you'd have to have kangaroos loose in the top paddock not to give this mob a try, 'cos it's London to a brick that Airbourne are gonna be one of the next big bands out there. They may have drifted in from never never, but only a drongo wouldn't see that they're a diamond in the rough rather than a brown eyed mullet!
Okay, enough of the Australian slang, because to be honest it's giving me a headache. In case none of it has penetrated, Airbourne are a new Australian band who are rather good. The backbone of the band are vocalist/guitarist Joel O'Keefe and his drummer brother Ryan, who grew up listening to their Uncle's record collection. Luckily, this consisted mainly of artists such as Rose Tattoo, The Angels, Cold Chisel and AC/DC. It's fitting, then, that the brothers (along with David Roads and Justin Street) have delivered an album that takes all the best bits of these bands and smushes them together into a sound that could only have come from a land down under.
Put simply “Runnin' Wild" is the best album AC/DC never made. It's a head on collision of bar room boogie and shit kicking rock and roll, with oh-so-subtle songs like “Too Much Too Young Too Fast", “Girls In Black" and the unbeatable “Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women" giving you a good idea of the bands mindset. It's one of those albums that is almost impossible not to enjoy, with no fillers clogging up the action. Some albums take a few spins to get into, but “Runnin' Wild" takes just a minute, as the low key intro erupts into the main riff of “Stand Up For Rock 'n' Roll", evoking memories of Bon Scott and Angus Young when they were young and hungry.
Joel O'Keefe may not have the raw energy of Bon Scott, but he sure can wail, and coupled with some absolutely perfect guitar licks his voice suits the music down to the ground. The album itself is well produced with a great, clear sound, and comes across as a pretty amazing debut. There's no real musical genius at work, just full on rock for people who like their music hot, sweaty and carrying a six pack with a hooker on it's arm. Airbourne are gonna take the rock world by storm, and if, like me, you've been waiting for AC/DC to put out a really good album again, then this is for you. Bring on the live shows, cos I think they're gonna be ripper!
MAN-RAZE: "Surreal" 9
Surrealist Records 2008
In a combination that will make many people go “What the..?", Def Leppards Phil Collen has got together with old Girl bassist Simon Laffy and Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. In 2005 they released an EP, and early 2008 will see the overdue release of this full album.
The first thing about Man-Raze (bloody odd name, that) is that they sound like a certain Def Leppard. Yeah, I know it's a shock, but I was personally expecting something a little more off the wall after reading the accompanying paraphernalia. Mind you, if “Surreal" was recorded by Def Leppard it would receive standing ovations and pats on the back for being the first Leppard album for a long time with heart and balls well and truly in the right place.
For the most part, “Surreal" is a good, straight rock album. Tracks like “This Is", “Turn It Up", “Can't Find My Own Way" and “Connected To You" follow the patterns laid down by various hard rock and sleaze bands, coming and going in a few minutes apiece and leaving a fresh, spicy taste after they've left. There's melody aplenty and riffage without too many solos getting in the way. This is rock for rockers, I suppose, with Collen's voice having no problems with the songs, although he does sound rather like Joe Elliot with a cold. That said, there are a few interesting speed bumps where a bit of ska-lite creeps in, noticeably on “Runnin' Me Up", and even some late Seventies punk ethos on “It's Entertainment".
“Surreal" would be a lauded album no matter who released it, full as it is of catchy, rocking tunes. Released on the bands own label, it was obviously made at the bands leisure with no faffing about from a record company, and is all the better for it. If you are a Def Leppard fan then this should be right at the top of your New Year's shopping list.
LEVERAGE: "Blind Fire" 8
Leverage is not your average (sic!) Frontiers ex-80s star band with songs that were written at some point in 1987 but were bad enough not to make any of the albums back then. No, Leverage is a stunningly fresh band from Finland with an energetic approach that sparked their first album and lasts even on their second titled "Blind Fire". They may be a bit too heavy for the average Frontiers audience, as this in fact is heavy metal, even if on the melodic side of the genre.
The opening "Shadow in the Rain" pretty much sets the tone and shows you what to expect all through the entire album. Bombastic sound, uptempo stompers with simple but memorable vocal melodies and just very decent musicianship. Huge credits go to Torsti Spoof (one of the guitarists of the band) and to Jari Mikkola for the mixing as the albums sounds unbelievably good, the mix is very balanced, all instruments are audible and very well-placed in the mix.
It's hard to compare the band to any current act out there. Combine (late 80s early 90s) Yngwie's perfectionism with the energetic approach of the first few Leatherwolf albums and add some Scandinavian flavor and sound to it and you get close. Or maybe not. Take a listen yourselves. My personal favorites included the midtempo "Sentenced" with catchy lyrics, the heavy "Mister Universe" with its few tempo changes, and "Learn to Live" with its beautiful acoustic intro and brilliant guitar solos. The album could have benefited from a better track order; all those tracks with balladesque intros were placed at the end of the album, and there are slower and slower tracks anyway as we approach the end of the album, as if the band ran out of gunpowder (obviously not the case). All in all the 52 minutes total running time and the 10 songs don't leave much to ask for, except for an excessive European tour to hear them live...
Ian CARROLL: "The Reading Festival" 8
Reynolds & Hearn LTD" 2007
This beautifully illustrated official history (the whole title being "The Reading Festival- Music, Mud and Mayhem - The Official History") captures every event from 1971 to 2006. It’s a diverse and interesting account by many artists who have graced the stage at one of the UK’s most prestigious festivals. Rod Stewart once said “Every Picture Tells A Story" , well every page in this book captures the moment (even the naked Hippies photographed in1975).The strength of the festival has been it’s diversity from AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, to Oasis, Blur and the Kaiser Chiefs. Ian Carroll has certainly done his research well and this is a bloody damn good read.
1978 saw Status Quo headlining and a Daytona yellow Ford Anglia with blue and white stripes down each side (Leeds United away strip) ascended on Reading. Afros were cool (or mandatory back then) as two Phil Lynott look a likes emerged drained from a drive down from Sheffield with a car full of sweaty mates. How we got through Two, Four, Six, and Eight, from the Tom Robinson band with out jumping on stage and punching him I will never know? The Quo were awesome and the day and personal experience memorable.
Rod Smallwood built his reputation as a brilliant manager guiding Iron Maiden into a stadium band but did you know he started out in catering? Rod Smallwood and Andy Taylor had a Company called Party Chef and during 76/77 they were doing the backstage catering at Reading and Rod was cooking burgers and driving the van.
Graham Bonnet (ex Rainbow vocalist) left MSG (Michael Schenker Group) two days before they were due to headline Reading in 1982 after lasting just 15 minutes on stage at a gig in Sheffield. He walked off stage leaving Michael and his band to play the rest of the show with no vocals (it’s true we were there) Michael asked Gary Barden if he could do the festival and he said yes.
Hundreds of artists have contributed to the book, even those who couldn’t even remember if they had played it or not as they were so stoned! It’s amusing, entertaining and informative. The photography really captures the fans and the artists but most importantly the spirit of Reading.
The Reading Festival is a national treasure and set the standard that others aspired to. It’s a must have publication so grab a copy whilst you can! At last a book that captures a slice of music history without boring your arse off!
GLYDER: "Playground For Life" 7
True Talent Records 2008
Philomena Lynott has ensured that Glyder will always have a little publicity by stating that they are the natural successor to Thin Lizzy, which is a lot of pressure to put on a band just about to release their second album. Yeah, they're Oirish and everything, so they are, but in my book Pride Tiger are a lot more Lizzy, whilst Glyder have their moments but aren't quite there yet.
To be fair, the four piece start well with the excellent “Gamblers Blues", a hard tune that will delight fans of Lizzy-esque flavoured rock music. Bassist Tony Cullen supplies the vocals, and is definitely not trying to be a Lynott clone. He hasn't got a voice that will send shivers down anyone's spine, but he does the job nicely, as to Bat Kinane and Pete Fisher, who aren't afraid to slip in the occasional twin guitar solo without overdoing it. The good stuff continues for “Sweets", which features a cool twin solo, but the pace slackens a bit for “Puppet Queen", leading to the title track, which send out almost a Pink Floyd vibe despite the hard riffs that pepper it.
As an album, “Playground For Life" is a fine effort, although too many of the songs seem to lack a real bite, that spark that has you humming them all afternoon. It's at it's best when delivering forceful, catchy hard rock tunes, and I feel is let down by the mellower moments that see Cullen almost impersonating Dave Gilmour. Despite this, it's a hard album to dislike, as Glyder have obvious talent and can write and perform some cool music. The next Thin Lizzy? How about we just let them be the first Glyder instead, eh Philomena...
ANGEL OF EDEN: "The End of Never" 6
Are you tired of the word "neoclassical"? Or just bored with the music people tend to use it for? Well, then don't buy this one as your views won't change but only get even more firm. Angel of Eden is Artension guitarist Roger Staffelbach's side project and just as you'd expect it is melodic neoclassical metal at its prime. Yes, it is an all-star band of the genre (with Evidence One, Royal Hunt, Manowar, etc. musicians on board); yes, it sounds good, yes, it is professional, but no, it's not entertaining.
There's not much novelty in the songs (typical for the moniker „neoclassical" anyway), and except for the stunning guitar-work, nothing will really turn your head, the vocal melodies are not memorable at all, and the three instrumental tracks are by far the best ones on the album. I can only hope Roger will go for an instrumental album the next time as we could expect something out of the ordinary on that one. Not on this one with the vocal tracks though. The opening trio of songs run you over like a speeding bus but leave a lot less to remember than crashing into a bus would. However the instrumental "Return of the Pharao" is something to pay some attention to, even if the Malmsteen influence is more than obvious.
The only vocal track I really liked was "Keys To
Avalon" with a really catchy guitar-keyboards built intro riff and simple and
memorable vocal melodies. No, it is not a "neoclassical" song, it is a good old
melodic hard rock song with a damn good refrain and a rock band just having a
good time playing it. Too bad we didn't get more of it cuz that would be the way
to go! The band covered Yngwie's "You don't remember…" at the end of the album
which was a welcome addition in my book cuz at least there were melodies I could
remember. Do I sound disappointed? I am indeed. With this much talent squeezed
in one band/album, I'd expect a lot more originality and a big bunch of
"Avalons" and "Pharaos". Listen to the album and you'll know what I mean.
|REVIEWS ADDED 08 January, 2008
THE STREET: "The Divine Debauchery" 7
Even though U.S. hard rockers The Street have released 5 albums prior to "The Divine Debauchery", this is the first time I come across them. They're gathered a following in the west coast of USA, and now that they've represented in Europe by the Artist Worxx (promotion) / MusicBuyMail (distribution) alliance, they will probably make a few new friends on this side of the pond too.
The press release compares the band to the likes of U2, Bon Jovi and Van Halen, but to my ears those bands haven't got too much in common with The Street. I'd say the band's music ranges from melodic hard rock via gritty L.A. sleaze rock to contemporary metal.
The opening track "Greetings From The Ghetto" isn't really representative of the whole album, as it's one of the sleazier tracks, reminding me of the dozens of late 80'ies bands with bandanas, eyeliner and cowboy boots. The song has it's moments but much better are the next three songs, which see the band taking a more melodic approach. Vocalist B. Arnold sounds great when he doesn't try so hard to be a "bad-ass sleaze king", although he's pretty good at that too. Anyway, all three tracks are very good with hints of Lillian Axe and Shark Island.
"Step It Up" is more aggressive and frankly not very good. It's not quite as bad as I first thought - I misheard the lyrics and thought the song was called "Stupid Whore"... Mind in the gutter? "Nemesis" is a stronger track with a decent chorus, but I don't know what to make of the nu-metal sounding "Vendetta's My Name". It sounds very contemporary and I could imagine it being played on a rock radio station, but it also sounds like a different band. The same goes for "Shovel", which fails to impress me. The balladic "One Man Battle" is okay, but "Walls" is even better, mixing a cool groove with again Lillian Axe'ish melodies. Unfortunately it's followed by an another attempt at aggro-metal, "Head Or Be Dead" is the song and it might just be the weakest song of the album. The closing track "A Voluntary Loss Of Innocence" does earn the band a few extra points with its' strong melodies and finely crafted arrangement and harmonies.
If The Street could somehow incorporate their obvious knack for good melodies into their more aggressive tracks too, they could potentially put together a landmark album. Everything else seems to be as it should be - the relentless gigging has made them a tight band and there's no shortage of talent as far as I can hear. Maybe number seven is their lucky number? At least it's the rating they'll get for their album number six.
SILVER DIRT: "Sonic Live 2006" 7
Silver Dirt has only one album out (Sonic Boom) and “Sonic Live 2006" DVD mainly consists of songs on that album. Although it might seem a bit early to release a live DVD with only one album in the markets their decision seems to be the right one because the band sounds better and more energetic.
In fact, this band has some serious live potential and a low budget production doesn’t stop them from delivering a great rock & roll show. They work hard to get the crowd going and after a few moments of hesitation they win them over, as I’m sure will happen with those who watch this DVD. Silver Dirt has an excellent front man in Silver Steff and his charismatic performance is one of the main things that keeps this DVD interesting. Dirty Lio comes up with a few tasty guitar solos and Dirty Seb handles his bass duties well. Silver Gregg on the drums is rather expressionless, in fact quite the opposite of Silver Steff, but his drumming is suitable for their sound.
The shortage of material emerges in couple of things. There’s a guitar solo, a drum solo and two covers in a one hour show and some of the songs are prolonged with extra parts and guitar solos that could have been left out or cut down. The band’s working on their second album so I’m sure that this will change in the future. These guys have quite a few decent songs under their belt and I hope that their next album would include a monster that would raise more interest in the rock & roll public. Silver Dirt would be fun to witness live in a more extensive tour that would maybe take them nearer to my home town.
NAUGHTY BOYS: "R U Naughty Enough?" 5
Can you remember bands like Blonz, Boulevard, Dalton, Dominoe, Skin Tag, Wild Boyz, etc. etc. You can't? Well, no wonder. They were all B category melodic rock acts who "almost" made it. They were all okay musicians, wrote okay songs, with the right production, with the right promotion, and with billions of dollars backing them they could have made it big. If you care to keep a list like this, feel free to add Naughty Boys to it.
„R U Naughty Enough?" is an underproduced album as you could have guessed from my intro, Micke Snadvik's vocals suffer the most from that but quite frankly I'm not quite sure any decent production could have helped flat melodies and the lack of practice. Vocal melodies seem to be rather haphazard, even after a dozen spins, I can't seem to remember any of them. There aren't any real problems with the instruments, there's okay musicianship, nothing extraordinary, too bad the vocals ruin the overall picture.
It would be hard to name any highlights or
downsides, the 13 tracks and the almost an hour running time don't leave much to
desire other than a few decent tracks. There are a few good ideas gone wasted
like the cool intro and the guitar riff of "Bitter Tears" or the piano theme of
"Learn To Fly" but none of the songs come together as a decent one in the end.
As the band has been around since '92 I guess we can say there's always a next
SNOW: "s/t" 4
Z Records 2007
The Brazilian hard rock group Snow has apparently recieved rave reviews for this album. Good for them, but I can't really find anything to rave about this album. Okay, they do sound like an authentic version of any early nineties' second rate hard rock band. You know, those bands that seemed to get their deals because they had "the look" and possibly a couple of decent songs... do Hericane Alice, Roxy Blue, Blonz or Disturbance ring any bells? Don't worry if they don't...
The album kicks off with the rather ok "What Comes Around", a decent slab of hair metal with a Skid Row vibe. "Out On The Streets" doesn't sound too bad either, except for the rather reckless "gang vocals", but then everything starts to go wrong. "Hard Motherfucker" is an attempt at some sort of a "party metal anthem", but it ends up being just an embarassment with its' stupid voice-overs, crap lyrics and that damn cowbell. "Talk Of The Town" is just boring, while "Tearin Down The House" is one of the more tolerable tracks with a rather cool pre-chorus. Too bad the band ran out of ideas for the actual chorus.
"Underground Kids" could be a decent song if there was a real hook in it - having a gang shouting "rock!" and "yeah!" doesn't count as a chorus hook in my books. Still, despite of the nearly classic line "Sound makes us drool" it's one of the more tolerable songs on the album. No such luck with "She Demon", which could again use a hook instead of the unbelievebly dull "ooh oooh oooh she-demon", which is repeated again and again... and again. Even the vocalist (Riq Ferris I guess) sounds bored.
"On Fire" is a bit of a shocker, as it actually has a chorus with a melodic hook. Easily the best song of the album. "Catfight" does have a lot of energy, but the rather simple chorus lets it down. "On The Loose" is an energetic ditty as well, but its' Van Halen-groove doesn't appeal to me at all.
On most of the songs, the band seems to have tried to recreate the big wall-of-sound gang vocals of the first Skid Row album. They've succeeded to some degree, but when there are no melodic hooks for "the choir" to sing, it's just much ado about nothing. All in all, Snow are probably a decent band and have some potential, but they really should concentrate on the songwriting. On a different note, the artwork... did somebody actually get some money for it? Now those were dollars well spent...
RANDOM DAMAGE: "Human Flytrap" 4
Random Damage’s downtuned riffs are heavy and powerful. The drums (ex-Annihilator Ray Hartman) and the rhythm section in general is decent enough and Dean Boland can play the guitar as well as the next guy but that doesn’t change the fact that that the songs are not that special. Sure, the album has it’s moments but all in all “Human Flytrap" leaves you pretty cold.
After a few listens I noticed that the same thing happened every time; my mind started to wander pretty soon because the music just wasn’t captivating enough. The first song “Hippocritic" showed potential and I enjoyed the refrain in “Over My Head" and the mellow atmosphere in “Man of Sin" but unfortunately there are more mediocre moments than those of quality.
I’m afraid that this album does not have anything that would make it stand out from the masses. If you’re fanatically into melodic metal with a raunchy edge then go and check their website for soundbytes. Then you can decide whether your money is well spent on Random Damage. My opinion is that it’s not.
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