The ratings range from 1 to 10, with 1 being utterly horrible and 10 a classic in the making! Singles, EPs and compilations will not be rated.
Note to labels, promoters etc: Please do not bother sending us CD's with voiceovers. We will not review them. If you want us to review your product, please send us the product, not some inferior version of it!
The ratings range from 1 to 10, with 1 being utterly horrible and 10 a classic in the making! Singles, EPs and compilations will not be rated.
Note to labels, promoters etc: Please do not bother sending us CD's with voiceovers. We will not review them. If you want us to review your product, please send us the product, not some inferior version of it!
|REVIEWS ADDED 24 March, 2009
CHRIS LANEY: "Pure" 9
Chris Laney, who? Chris 'Friggin' Laney, that's who!!! Eh, nope, doesn't ring a bell. Ulf Larsson from Helsingborg on the other hand (not the fat-gone-thin comedian). Alright, this must be the same bloke from Sweden that once started out in bands such as Unameus, Scratch, Shooting Gallery, and Seventeen, in the late 80's/early 90's. Some of you may actually recall the latter act (17) as they recorded some singles produced by Tommy Denander (yep, that guy), and I believe I can recall a certain, "Good Girl Gone Bad", song from a Megarock compilation CD in the mid-90's.
Ulf, eh, Chris' been busy making himself a name as a producer here in Sweden lately (Polar studios). He's on the very brink of producer-stardom (is there such a thing?) and been working with Candlemass, Crashdiet, Europe, Easy Action, Bruce Kulick, Brian Robertson, as well as receiving two Swedish Grammys. He's also been the guitarist in Zan Clan (featuring Zinny Zan of Shotgun Messiah and Easy Action fame) and ex-WASP Randy Piper's Animal. Phew... if that's not enough of pure name-dropping, I don't know what is (some of you might find this info to be darn interesting though). But what about the music????
"Pure" is Laney's first solo CD and it's actually a friggin' good Sleaze/Melodic Rock effort (especially in comparsion to the new Nasty Idols). Expect a fine production and guest musicians such as Nalle Påhlsson (Treat, Easy Action), Vic Zino (Hardcore Superstars, Crazy Lixx), Zinny Zan (Mr.Sleaze of Sweden), Martin Sweet (Crashdiet), J Koleberg (Zan Clan, Animal), etc. 17 fans (hello, anybody?) may recall Chris as one sleazy vocalist in the vein of Anders Möller (Swedish Erotica) or Tim-Tim of Shotgun Messiah (not quite as kool though). Nontheless, the voice fits the music like a glove and everything is very professional done and executed. He doesn't have a huge repertoire nor range, however, he's at least capable and well aware of his strenght vs weakness as a vocalist. Extra credit to the wikked back-up harmonies and Def Leppard kind of choirs.
Going through some of the twelve tracks on display: "I Dunno" and "Pride B 4 The Fall" borrows quite a lot from the excellent groove of Winger's "Can't Get Enough". It's all the he-hey's and ho-ho's in the world complete with some pure Swedish Sleaze in the tradition of Swedish Erotica and Shotgun Messiah. "The Stranger In You" is definitely Def Lep and Treat melodies and had me def thinking about Treat's "No Room For Strangers" only with more stamina and attitude. "Last Man Standing" - fun/great mix of Swedish Erotica (debut) and Def Leppard rock. "I Hate Yer Guts" features Mr.Sleaze Of Sweden (Zinny Zan) on co-lead/back vocals and it's a sleaze party mayhem from start to finish. "Get You Down" is probably the best Def Lep kind of song you'll hear in 2009. "Pissed At What Ya Missed" could just as easily have been a track from the first Shotgun Messiah album [Harry Kody - please come back - we miss yer wikked gtr].
Final verdict: "Pure" gets merely better with each spin (up to a certain point of course) and I actually find myself headbanging along to the music with a a big, stoopid, grin on ma' face. Highly recommended if you fancy a mix of Shotgun Messiah, Swedish Erotica, Def Leppard, and Winger, melodies and influences. You know, this could very well be the best release ever from the Metal Heaven company and label.
REFLECTIONS: "An Act Of Glass - The Music of Andrew Gorczyca" 9
Head's up, yet another sad story waiting just around the corner. We're all cynical bastards @RockUnited and couldn't care less about life or death. Thus why we're not even going to mention Andrew Gorczyca or the fact that he passed away during the night in early August 2004, at only fourty years of age. Nope, no need to inform you all that aside from a few exceptions, Andrew never sought out other musicians for collaboration. He never tried to record his songs in a professional studio, preferring the privacy and economy of his home studio.
Gorczyca who? and why should you care? Well, for once, brilliant songwriter with quirky ideas for melodies. It's merely a shame he's not around to enjoy the success. Then again, his music would probably never have seen the light of day to the open public if not for the tragic event of his death. Andrews' brother and drummer Chris G is responsible for getting this together and he's managed to include top-notch musicians such as Adrian Belew (King Crimson, David Bowie, Zappa), Nick D'Virgilio (Spocks Beard), Ted Leonard (Enchant, Xen), Phil Keaggy, Mike Keneally, and a bunch of other prog veterans and Spock's Beard members (a total of 18 musicians).
The music will easiest be described as high-tech, Progressive Rock. Think about albums and bands such as Yes (90125), World Trade (S/T -1989), Rush (mid/late 80's), Peter Gabriel (80's) and Gowan. Throw in healthy small doses of The Police and Tears For Fears, and you're even closer to the core of this project. Hey, prog-heads, don't let the latter acts scare you away. This is very much close to 'must-have' to any fan of the genre, it's just not quite as complex or "difficult" as some of the other releases. The songs are generally speaking more easily accessable due to its hi-tech sound (of the eighties) and not quite as long in lenght as some of the most difficult albums.
Opening track, "The Tall Tale Heart", way over eight minutes long though and sung by the excellent Nick D'Virgilio. "Give It Time" is happy, poppy, prog 'ala Rush at their most melodic day. "How Can We Go On This Way", smells like the eighties with The Police doing Prog-Rock music with Peter Gabriel. "Lost In It All" is very much like Gowan on a long road trip with Yes during the era of 90125. Tons of lovely keyboards, bass-lines in the vein of Geddy Lee (Rush), grace and hi-tech guitar sounds, makes Reflections a highlight of 2009. Great production - great songs. Highly recommended!!!
SHREDDING ACROSS THE WORLD: "Vol. 2" 8
Shredguy Records 2009
Okay, so the title of this really gives it away, and you would be bang on the nail if you assumed it was an album full of (mostly) guitar instrumentals. Now this sort of thing can go either way, producing anything from masterpieces of music to a load of self indulgent wank. Shredguy records seem to know what they’re doing, however, and have managed to put together an excellent collection, with no sign of The Great Kat, for which I am very grateful.
I’m not a world authority on guitar shredders, so forgive my ignorance of the people involved in this. I recognise Janne Stark, and former Dio man Tracy G, but that’s about it. You also get the likes of John Jaunese, Neal Grusky, Tom Kopyto and Jeremy Barnes, amongst others, so if those names get you excited then it looks like this is the album for you.
This isn’t an album full of people playing at breakneck speed, rather a celebration of skilled guitar work within decent songs. There’s full on metal, yes, but also some marvellous neo classical stuff. Some songs, such as the Avantasia-esque “Angel Of Lies”, have vocals, but the album is mostly free of singers interfering with the business in hand of playing guitars. It’s been a while since I enjoyed a good instrumental album, and I can see myself coming back to this in the future. With eleven of the tracks only available on this compilation, this really is a top purchase for lovers of guitar.
OZ KNOZZ: "10.000 Days & Nights" 8
Surely Oz Knozz deserve some kind of award. Not quite sure what kind of event though and where in the world this would all take place. However, they've been around since the flower-power hippie era of 1969 (!?), recorded their first album, "Ruff Mix", back in 1975, their sophomore release, "10.000 Days & Nights", recorded in 2008.
Why do you think they call it dope? Hey, I noticed they're from Texas, USA, the home of President Bubba Bush. Doh, it's all very clear now. Nah, just kidding... but seriously, don't hold your breathe for a third release. Oz Knozz play classy, pompy, AOR of the late seventies. It's a sound that borrows just as much from Styx and Kansas as it does from Zon and Angel, a sort of dated sound but very effective and dare I say, catchy. I can't get into a couple of the tracks, but songs like, "Telephone", "Hear What I'm Saying", You Can't Win", "Graven Image", are all up there among the best of the pomp sound.
Since they've been around since 1969, I'm not entirelly sure about the "borrows" thing for that matter. This could very well be the source and not just another copy. The Massey brothers [Duane - vox/keys & Bill - bass] are both original members, Marty Naul (drums) joined in 1971 and he's still considered as the new kid of the band. Smashing guitarwork and lots of keyboards make this a very enjoyable CD for your Indiana Jones role playing nights. Yep, this is the stuff which all the archaeologists are dreaming about to find during a dig. NOT to be missed out if you're into utterly pompy schtuff of the late seventies.
IRONWOOD: "Fire Water Ash" 7
This is one helluva dark and slightly twisted CD. The sole purpuse and meaning of, "Fire Water Ash", surely must be to mess around with the listeners comprehendsibility as much as possible [and I like it!!!]. Just when I thought I had pinned down the sound and genre of Ironwood, they managed to pull another rabbit from out of nowhere and include yet another weird structure and style.
According to vocalist/bassist Henry Lauer: the band strove to meld the disparate influences of animism, heathenism, grief and creative exploration. They sought the mystery and 'Fire Water Ash' is the result, end quote. Indeed, these four lads from Sydney, Australia, are some kind of musical hybrids of Progressive, Doom, Pagan, Celtic, Folk, Nature, Thrash.
Opening track, "Önd Ascending", acoustic guitar number in the vein of Morrissey and The Smiths. "The Oncoming Storm" is a storming uptempo rocker in the vein of Danzig. "The Raven Song" is very emotional and close to classical celtic sounds in its simplicity and structure. "Jarnvidr Gallows" starts out slow and mellow before it explodes into some kind of folk/death metal. It's Skyclad on steriods and Mad Martin Walkyier surely must be the source of inspiration, no? "The Serpent Seeks Its Tail" dwells on gloomy and doomy vibes and a glimpse of boiling ginnung sloughts off this armoured weight, purging power of salt, fire, water and ash. "Tide Of Memory" is again very "Celtic" and basically another acoustic guitar song.
They might just be too ecliptic at times and it's difficult to get the hang of their music. Very professional done though and they are all well crafted musicians.
LEMON BIRD: "Rara Avis" 6
Lemon Bird - the monicker itself should be a quite good indication of where they're coming from, although it's not all too obvious, it's still groovy rock of the seventies and late sixties. The fact that their music has been described as 'Led Zeppelin' schtuff says a lot more about the poor state of the reviewers than about them.
Sure, right, ALL bands are influenced by Led Zep according to most folks and especially if you sound like the seventies. You know, if anything, I can hear a lot more of Cream and Humble Pie than Zeppelin on this CD and that's still a helluva long way from the entire truth. In fact, throw in some of It's Alive (yeah, the Max Martin band), November, Deep Purple, The Hives, and you've covered all bases. Lemon Bird are from Sweden and they do play the sort of thing that labels such as Record Heaven and Transubstans would normally be releasing. Not sure why they haven't picked these guys up as they're class and quite fun to listen to on a groovy sunday afternoon.
REMEDY: "Strange Fast Now" EP
Perhaps this could turn out to be your very own Remedy for long and boring days at work? Energetic, attitude, fueled, passion-driven music according to the info-sheet and yours truly is almost prepard to agree. As you may or may not imagine, Remedy play bluesy, groovy rock, the kind of thing that needs no particular place to go on a saturday night. It's merely there to entertain you and not necessarily out to change the world or stop all of the wars. However, if all this would accrue while keeping the groove a going, heck, why not?
Created out of love for 70's rock music and a shared disappointment at today's disposable attitude towards music [huh, where?], four friends [it's easier that way], Jenn Cherene (vocals), Graham Haswell (guitars), Lee Tuck (bass), Mark Dodds (drums), all in their early twenties, sought to write music which injected thought and passion into its listeners.
"Strange Fast Now" is their debut 6-track EP and it's like listening to Backyard Babies on steroids. "Midnight To Morning" reminded me actually about Headpins and Jenn is a power-house vocalist in the style of Darby Mills. Make no mistake, this is the real deal with the right ingredients and everything. I believe they merely need to fine-tune some of their tunes a bit and they'll be off to stardom and fame. Definitely something to look out for in the future to come and it's a completely self-founded, self-released project (pay attention A&R's of the world). Check'em out at MySpace.
COLDSPELL: "Infinite Stargaze" 6
Geez, name-dropping have the tendency to get ugly at times. Do you recall the Swedish band R.A.W. featuring ex-Dalton brothers Lindmark and Kicken of The Poodles fame? No, well, not many did. Ehem, nevermind the lame introduction as guitarist Michael Larsson of above mentioned band moved on to Coldspell and Kiruna (the most northern town of Sweden).
Signed to Escape Music in the U.K. and with a fine production, this CD sound much like a 50/50 affair between the 70's and 80's melodic hardrock. Opening track, "Keep On Believin", borrows a lot from Whitesnake and 'Slip Of The Tongue' or if you prefer, Led Zeppelin and Kashmir. "Solid Ground" is groovy rock 'ala Badlands on a quick lunch date with the Swedes of Mister Kite. "Ravin Mad", more of the groovy stuff and not exactly up to the standard of say, Freak Kitchen, and their likes. "Eye Of The Storm" is like any of those so-so tunes by John Sykes and Blue Murder. "Straight Things Out" is however a nice Electric Boys rocker during the era of 'Freewheelin'.
To put this down in "musical" terms, they can all play their instruments and Niclas Swedentorp is a mighty fine vocalist. However, when they all get together it becomes no more than a perfect showcase of top-notch musicians with not-so-great songmaterial. It's groovy - but sadly not catchy.
FREE SPIRIT: "Pale Sister Of Light" 4
You know how you (yes - YOU!) always complain about any old band as they make a disasterous left turn and leave all of their original ideas behind. I'am not pointing out Free Spirit as the inventors of free n' easy rock, however, I've been receiving demos for the past ten years (the band started playing together in 1992) and they were always about: The Cult, Led Zeppelin, Hanoi Rocks, and merely a hint of AOR [you can find demo reviews in our massive archive].
Ehem, all of a sudden in 2009, they've somehow decided to jump on the bandwagon of Leverage and Brother Firetribe. Yup, they've basically re-arranged all of their old songs and transformed them into bland and water downed versions of melodic hardrock. Wave goodbye to guitar rock and say hello to massive wimp rock. It could be that I'am somewhat biased to their old versions. But seriously... they should be able to come up with some new material after all this time???
What if you've never even heard about Free Spirit or their songs before? Well, then I guess you're in for some new tunes after all. Honestly, this reminds me of the Swedish band: Turning Point (Riverdance, SMC Records, 1994) and they were kind of rubbish too.
PYLON: "Doom" 4
No need for any lenghtly discussion about which hardrock sub-genre to file this one under. The title of Pylon's CD is indeed, "Doom", and they happily admit to be heavilly influenced by the likes of Saint Vitus, Count Raven, and Sabbath. They even decided to include some flute and clarinet interludes in between all the doomy stuff and the result is.... ehh... kind of confusing.
Doom is the main theme of the day and in all its etymological sense and form: fate, ruin, judgement, the pope, milli vanilli, etc. Unfortunately, the lead vocalist turned out to be a major turd and as much fun as watching wet paint dry. We've seldom heard such a monotone performance and it's merely by share luck and fortune that we're still alive to tell the tale. You r-e-a-l-l-y need a strong and varied singer if you're to get away with slow-motion doom music such as the one on display here. If not... it could get very ugly, very fast.
Pylon is a power-trio with the guitarist taking care of all the lead vocalis. I'd quickly try and find a proper fellow to front your doomy act and leave the guitarist to do the widdly-widdly stuff, since there's nothing remotely wrong about the material. Yeah, a little bit too much of the Black Sabbath similarities at times, but what the heck, you could do a lot worse when it comes to influences. Eh... reading the info-sheet, I noticed they've just recently replaced their old singer with the turd on display on this very record. Oops... makes ya' wonder what the old one sounded like???!!! Bummer, the hunt for a new frontman should start asap though.
HAMMERFALL: "No Sacrifice, No Victory" 4
'Eat metal, drink metal, sleep metal, s**t metal'. Repeat every morning and day until you finally believe in these geezers to be the biggest and baddest metal group of musicians in the world. No sacrifice, no victory. Yeah, it's not going to happen. It's the same story with every new CD. There's a couple of really great tunes and a bunch of fillers.
I recall rooting for Celtic as they were playing the uefa-cup and eventually reaching the final. My theme song and good luck charm for the bhoys, "Heart's On Fire" by Hammerfall. Why? because it's a fine tune and John Hartson was indeed on fire during those months (classic Celtic striker at the time). Henrik Larsson was of course the real hero of the day and you won't find a better Swede among these turnips (or vice versa).
Obsessed with swords, lords, warriors, and fjords, Hammerfall attempt to plant one foot in the medieval scenario and the other one in mediocrity. I believe we've all been there, done that, seen the movie and bought the t-shirt. You can make a superb compilation CD of all the Hammerfall releases though, but I can't for the life figure out why the songwriting goes up and down like a rollercoaster ride.
NASTY IDOLS: "Boys Town" 3
Andy Pierce sings: I wanna "Rock Out" on the opening track off the new Nasty Idols CD. There's no real meaning, charm, or energy behind the words though. Sigh, it's a shame really, since we've kinda enjoyed the Swedish Sleaze rockers in the past. It's all very downhearted and not up to pair with their kikk-azz attitude of long gone days. I'm not enterilly sure why, but it's almost like they're merely going through the motion with "Boys Town".
Nope, there's no, 'Heads Down In Tinsel Town', 'Cool Way Of Living', etc. to be found on this platter. It's all very mid-tempo based and darn right average when it comes to the actual songmaterial. Sure, there's probably a market for this kind of old-geezers rock, but even Mötley Crue look like a bunch of school kids in a quick comparsion (at least musicwise).
It's obviously not a age thing and truth be told, "Boys Town" is just not a very good record. It's almost painful to hear the lads going through the music of "Nite Like This". Lack-lustre to the extreme and merely "48 Hours" (no, not the PBF song) and "Method To My Madness" managed to stick inside my head for more than a couple of minutes. Sorry lads, I desperately wanted to enjoy this, but no-can-do.
REVENGE: "Titties-N-Beer" 2
Ehem, not to be a prude [strickly rude, strickly rude]. However, I'm not completely sure that holding two beer tankards infront of your lead vocalists bare titties is the best way to promote your new CD. Then again, the title of the CD is indeed, "Titties N Beer". Ehem, excellent, high fives all around, oops, better make that mature hausfrau titties and we all know how shite american beer tastes anyhow.
It's like one of those comic strip mockumentaries and Revenge could possible go on tour as the opening act for Bad News. The bass-guitar goes plonk, plonk, plink, plonk in the best tradition of Sid Vicious. The guitar goes off like a rocket to the sky and the drummer walks all over the place. It's all very punky somehow and your drunk neighbours garage rock band is the first thing on your mind.
To be honest though. They do have a couple of not-too-shabby tunes and especially, "Jack The Ripper", and "The Wolves", could work just fine at your weekly NWOBHM meeting at the cemetery. At the age of eleven I would probably have hailed these guys as the new champions of hardrock [titties n beer, titties n beer, dude, it's titties n beer]. It's just not the same once you've reached puberty.
|REVIEWS ADDED 20 March, 2009
DEREK SHERINIAN: "Molecular Heinosity" 9
Inside Out Records 2009
This is already one of my favourite albums of 2009 and I am certain that it will end up in my top 10 of best albums of this year! The man did it again, THE ultimate keyboard wizard came up with an amazing prog metal album once more. I loved all his other albums and I never thought that he would top his previous album, but he did!! "Molecular Heinosity" is Derek's best album and it is his also his heaviest one; his progression to the darker and heavier side is again very clear on this cd. Take for instance the song "Wings Of Insanity", a thunderous rocker, fast, furious and extremely tight played, featuring a super speedy guitarsolo, which takes you right into metalheaven.
This album is chock full of gems and another highlight is the neo-classical Malmsteen-like "The Lone Spaniard", stuffed with arpeggios, amazing guitarsolos and melodies and of course breathtaking, howling keyssolos by the master himself. Of course Derek also managed to "invite" a couple of amazing guest musicians on this new album, like: Zakk Wylde, Tony Franklin, Virgil Donati and Rusty Cooley.
Derek saves the best for last, because "So Far Gone" is The smouldering ultimate stomper; it is also the only vocal song on the
album. The song starts with a piano intro, followed by Zakk's Black Sabbath-like vocals, which turns into a grunge Alice In Chains-like song; heavy, spooky, doomy and
truly astonishing. This is one of the best metal songs I have heard in a long time!! Check it out at maximum volume and go crazy.
The only "bad" thing I could say about this album is that it is far TOO f..... short, it only lasts for 39 minutes and 48 seconds; but luckily there is a
repeat button on the cd player!!!
SUNSTORM: "House Of Dreams" 8
Joe Lynn Turner's AOR project Sunstorm was one of the genre "hits" of 2006, so it wasn't a surprise that a sequel was put together. Following the same recipe - some old songs dusted off and some new material, "House Of Dreams" doesn't disappoint. It's not as great as the first 'Storm, but nevertheless a very solid release with good production by Dennis Ward and superb vocals from Mr. Turner himself.
Half of the material comes from the profilic songwriters Tom and James Martin, who were responsible for last year's brilliant Khymera album among others. Their songs on this album are high quality stuff as usual, including my favourite tracks "House Of Dreams" and "The Spirit Inside". I do fear that they are starting to repeat themselves - there are some signs of that already evident in these songs.
The one "unknown" song from Turner's archives is the frantic and uptempo "I Found Love", a real throwback to the first half of the eighties with swirling pomp-rock keys. The other archive discoveries are more familiar material: "Save A Place In Your Heart" was recorded by Only Child back in 1988, "Walk On" by Jimmy Barnes on his "Freight Train Heart" album and "Forever Now" was on Terry Brock's solo album "Back To Eden". The latter is my favourite of the three, although the ballad "Walk On" is a very good song too. I've never been that crazy about "Save A Place...", I just don't think it's that exciting a song. Turner could've covered Lee Aaron's "Powerline" instead, him being one of the writers.
The three remaining songs come from Jim Peterik's songbook. "Say You Will" is an ultra-wimpy ballad which sounds like it was written for some cheesy eighties romatic comedy and intended for someone like Glenn Medeiros. Turner sings his heart out, but even he cannot save the song from being a bit too sugary for my taste. "Gutters Of Gold" is much better, a hard rocking uptempo number, while "Tears On The Pages" is an impressive semi-ballad but without the extra sugar on top.
There's a couple of tracks that tend to make me reach for the "skip"-button, but the overall quality of the others make this a worthy effort.
BACKYARD BABIES: "Backyard Babies" 8
Spinefarm UK 2009
With the sad finish (or should that be Finnish) of Hanoi Rocks, there's a tussle to see who should pick up the baton and wave it in the name of top quality sleaze rock. Newcomers The Chelsea Smiles have a shot at the title, but there's always gonna be stiff competition by Backyard Babies, Sweden's finest export since the blonde one in ABBA.
It seems like they've been around forever, but this is only the babies 6th Album. If you've heard them before then the content isn't going to come as much of a surprise. For the uninitiated, Backyard Babies sit nicely inbetween classic Wildhearts and the aforementioned Hanoi Rocks, delivering head down, four to the floor rock and roll anthems that are instantly hummable yet intricate enough to gain appreciation with repeated listens.
"Backyard babies" has twelve straightforward rockers, including the excellet "Drool", the brilliantly names "Zoe Is A Weirdo" and "Where Were You", a spiritual brither to The Wildhearts' "Miles Away Girl". The album closes with the melancholy "Saved By The Bell", which I really like. There's not a duff track in sight, and if you're a fan who hasn't shelled out yet it's now available in a digipack with a photo booklet and a video of "Fuck Off And Die". Not by themselves reason to buy a second copy, but certainly an extra shove for those of you yet to sample the delights of babies in the back yard.
MINEA: "Sota" 8
This CD arrived without a promo leaflet or biography, so my first impression was formed by looking at the artwork. The album cover didn't reveal much - just a band photo with four rather ordinary looking guys in their 30'ies I suppose. No clues there. With an album title "Sota (="War")", I was afraid that this would be simple "manly" heavy rock like Kotiteollisuus or something. I'm glad to say that I was wrong.
As the opening track "Sota" came through the speakers, "Kilpi goes to church" was my initial reaction. Yep, this band is a Christian act and not afraid to show it. Lyrically the first track has a bit of a "Soldiers Under Command"-vibe, with the band proclaiming Jesus as the winner of the battle or something to that effect... kinda like "Teräsbetoni goes to church" for all you Finns out there! Musically the song is more in the vein of Kilpi, melodic metal with an 80'ies vibe. Good stuff!
"Anna Sen Tulla Uniin" is the album's absolute highlight, merging the band's various influences perfectly. It's melodic, metallic rock with a modern touch, and the chorus is quite excellent. "Tässä On Tie" takes the band further from the 80'ies metal style of the opening track, yet it still works well. It's quite catchy pop rock with modern production values. "The Rasmus goes to church"... and it's getting crowded there!
"Tulessa Kasvaneet" reminds me of my favourite Christian Rockers of 2008, The Rain. The song is a melodic, midtempo rock track and wouldn't sound out of place on The Rain's albums. "Suurin On Rakkautes" is a song with radio hit potential I suppose, but it's also the song I dislike the most. Vocalist Reijo Tiitinen uses as a rather irritating lazy vocal style on it, and the whiny chorus pushes all the wrong buttons. Still, in its' blandness this is perfect for Radio Nova and other middle-of-the-road radio stations.
The remaining songs are better, with some of them going to the direction of The Rasmus again. The bouncy and hook-laden "Valoon" is my favourite of them. The closing number "Kallioon Juurtunut" closes the circle by having a metallic edge similar to the opening track.
Although there isn't a label involved, this album doesn't sound like a self-financed one. The production has power, warmth and cool little details, and the album sound better than most of the indie releases of today. Recommended, but anti-religious people should approach with caution. Or...what the heaven...
THE BAKERTON GROUP: "El Rojo" 7
AFM Records 2009
"El Rojo" is the second album of The Bakerton Group which is in fact a side project of the stoner rock outfit called Clutch. It is an insrumental album with lots of elements from jazz and blues. The music is dominated by organ and guitar and most of the 10 songs are rather relaxed and laid back. So, if you like instrumental bluesy jams with some stoner rock and psychedelic influences then you will probably like The Bakerton Group
Musical highlights for me are: "Life On Lars" and "Bill Proger's Galaxy", two rather long songs with lots of smooth guitar work and "old-fashioned" organ sounds and solos. Maybe even your mother-in-law will like this album...
DRAVEN: "Eden" 7
Draven, named after the lead character in “The Crow”, are another band jostling for a place in the front line of quality British hard rock acts. There’s no easy ride, though, with the likes of Stone Gods, Hot Leg, Heaven’s Basement and The Answer determined to fly the flag on their own.
For a debut album, “Eden” is very mature, showing a sense of diversity and creativity from the Lincolnshire 4 piece. It all starts off very well indeed with “Blitz”, a cracking song that reminds me of Ozzy Osbourne for some reason, but with better singing. The band have aimed for a Southern Boogie feel to their music, but although it’s present there’s a lot more going on. Vocalist Jim Paoli has a voice that is more stoner rock than suvvern rock, and this mixes pretty well with the bluesy riffs and solos that surround him. On “Itchy Finger” and “Home” they have a crack at The Answer’s crown and do a damned good job, whilst elsewhere there’s more of a unique approach. It all goes a bit Coldplay on “Breathe”, but even then it’s Coldplay with a bit of a kick up their whiny arse, so that’s okay.
Draven certainly have the makings of a serious future with “Eden”. It’s not as accessible as it could be sometimes, but never dips into weridness or poor songs. This probably won’t be the album to set the world on fire, but it puts them firmly in the driving seat of their career. Good, honest hard rock with some memorable songs, “Eden” will mark Draven as a band to watch.
MAROON: "Order" 6
The German metal force Maroon deliver with "Order" their most extreme album till this day. It is extremely heavy, aggressive, fast,diverse and the brutal vocals of Andre Moraweck bring back memories of good old Pantera. Maroon also "uses" musical characteristics of Metallica - the early days - and their music furthermore ranges from melodic death to doomy mid tempo and from trash metal till catchy mosh anthems! It is this diversity that makes this album rather interesting, if you like your music heavy, trashy and loud, that is.
This album also features the first Maroon song with German lyrics: "Schatten" (which means Shadows) and it is an over 7 minutes long epic song based on a poem by Friedrich Ruckert. This song is really the darkest song that Maroon have ever written,check it out, but be beware that it might freak you out... Of course it is rather essential that you understand the German lyrics, so viel spass bei diesem Song!!
As you already should know I like my music a bit more melodic and progressive so my mark is maybe a bit too subjective, maybe I am a whimp???
EARTH CRISIS: "To The Death" 6
Century Media 2009
The legendary hard core/metal band Earth Crisis are back after 9 years of silence! "To The Death" is their heaviest album ever and if you like hard core with a message then you must have this album. The production is extremely heavy and most of the songs have extreme grooves like for example Hatebreed. All songs are under the 4 minute mark and are set to remind you what hardcore is really all about.
It is not my favourite kind of music but I felt that I had to bring this album under your attention for those of you out there who like that stuff!
4BITTEN: "No More Sins" 4
4Bitten are a Greek female fronted bluesy outfit who started as a covers band but have now released this, their debut album. It's got funky basslines and some blues based riffage going through it, but ultimately "No More Sins" doesn't inspire confidence.
The strongest feeling I get when listening to 4Bitten is of Skunk Annansie, but without any of the balls that the UK band had. In Skin, they had a frontwoman with a voice that could stop traffic and command attention, whereas American/Greek vocalist Fofi has a voice that is very average. There's just no real fire coming from the speakers, and coupled with songs that come stright from The Lauren Harris school of dated rock, it means that 4Bitten are, unfortunately, easily 4Gotten.
|REVIEWS ADDED 13 March, 2009
SCELERATA: "Skeletons Domination" 8
Nightmare Records 2008
I know this has been out in various countries since last year, but personally I’d never heard of Brazillian melodic metallers Scelerata until it came through my door ahead of a UK release date. Not much information was forthcoming, but one spin and it was obvious that Scelerata are a talented bunch who deserve some of your time and money.
From the off, Scelerata bring to mind some great bands with their incredibly melodic guitar work and high pitched vocals. For me, it was a mix of Helloween, Gamma Ray and Iron Maiden, which ain’t a bad thing in my book. When Scelerata put their collective foot down it’s great stuff indeed, although the whole thing falls off the rails a bit on the dull ballad “Close To Move Mountains”. There’s also a rather pointless short instrumental, but everywhere else the band really shines, pushing melodies all over the place, with some superb widdly guitar work. It’s hard, it’s melodic and it’s really rather good. Check them out, cause you won’t regret it.
SATELLITE: "Nostalgia" 8
Metal Mind Productions 2009
Finally a new album of Polish prog rockers Satellite. "Nostalgia" is their fourth and defintely their best effort so far, as I truly believe that this band can still grow. The first 4 songs are all filled with amaazing melodic melodies and breathtaking guitar solos. Especially in "Afraid Of What We Say" and "Every Desert Got Its Ocean" guitarplayer Sarhan Kubeisi shows what he is capable of; man this guy can make your hair stand up straight with his guitareargasms!!
However the last 3 songs do not have the same high musical level as the first four, especially "Over Horizon" is a kind of a weird track,with lots of percussion and a rather mediocre keyboardsolo. "Am I Losing Touch?" reminds me of Pallas and Pendragon, featuring a rather dull middle part with semi-acoustic guitar parts and pianopassages. The last song "Is It Over?" is rather psychedelic but the Gilmour-like guitar solo really saves this song. so, all in all a great prog rock album and hopefully next time Satellite will release an album with only amazing songs of a very high standard like: "Afraid Of What We Say" or "I Want You To KNow". Then the perfect 10 may come in sight for these Polish proggies!
GLOW: "Tales Of Prodigal Sons" 8
Glowing Records 2008
Glow, founded in 1996, is a Norwegian symphonic rockband and their debut, recorded in 2003 got a couple of raving reviews. On this album the musical influences of Glow are again rather clear - Led Zeppelin, U2, Eldritch and Sieges Even - but Glow also has a distinct sound and style of their own. Highlights on this album are "De Ville In Disguise" (beautiful guitar solo), "The Mission"(great prog rock with two outstanding guitar solos) and the title track, being a great prog metal track with obvious Sieges Even characteristics.
Most of the song feature big guitars, big vocals and big keyboards and therefore the sound is overall a kind of bombastic and sometimes rather dramatic. In fact the only real disappointing song is the semi-acoustic rather dull ballad called: "Pieces Of My Life", the rest of the material is quite interesting symphonic rock "metal", which you really should try if you like that sort of music; you will not be disappointed.
THE CHELSEA SMILES: "The Chelsea Smiles" 8
What a nice surprise this album is - full of upbeat, catchy sleaze ridden songs, well played and produced, it really cheered me up. Straddling the fine line between glam and indie, they owe a debt to the likes of Hanoi Rocks and Oasis equally, not to mention The Rolling Stones, honoured here with a first rate cover of “The Last Time”.
The Chelsea Smiles are here to make rock and roll music, that much is obvious. That they make it so well is a bonus, as there’s a lot of third rate sleaze rock about. That the self titled debut stands head and shoulders above much of the competition says a lot for the California based foursome. This is stripped down but powerful, with no pretensions and twelve tracks without a duffer in sight.
So if you like a bit of Backyard Babies, Hanoi Rocks or any of the rest of the sleaze brigade, The Chelsea Smiles are the band for you. Lively, well written music best listened to with your legs apart, your head down and half a fag in your mouth, this is one of the better debuts for some time.
STREET LEGAL: "Beat The Bullet" 7
Thin Lizzy fans rejoice! These Norwegians keep the memory of Phil Lynott alive with their brand of classic rock. There's no denying that the sound of Lizzy is a major influence to the band, from the phrasing of vocalist/bass player (naturally!) Bjorn Boge to the melodic guitars played by Tore Ostby (of Ark and Conception fame) and Rolf Bjorseth. The axemen aren't actually members of the band, which currently consists only of Bjorn Boge and his brother Oystein on drums.
Apart from the Thin Lizzy influence, you might notice that "Shadow In My Heart" will make you think of those blues albums of Gary Moore, and that "Starship Trooper" is the closest thing you'll hear to vintage Van Halen this year. And what is it with Michael Sembello's "Maniac", how come every other band wants to cover it these days? Street Legal's version is good, make no mistake about that, but it is also the third or fourth one I've heard during the last 18 months.
Favourite tracks: the opening duo of "Loading Up" and "Somebody Up There Likes Me", the aforementioned "Maniac" and the "epic"-sounding "Silent Tear". I don't know, there are maybe a few rather forgettable tracks here, but somehow there's something oddly positive and uplifting in the whole album, which makes it better than the sum of its' parts. Good vibrations?
SONIC ORCHID: "Love & War" 7
Sonic Orchid is a female fronted rock band from Canada and normally you'd expect such a band to have some sort of a withdrawn, sophisticated overall sound, as well as vocals, and lyrics to match them. You get none of those from Sonic Orchid; instead it's in-your-face rough hard rock full of energy. Brad Evanochko's guitar sound is thick, his riffing is tight, so is the rhythm section but the real twist comes from Christine Gasparic whose vocals sound like some fury on the loose.
Normally you don't expect female vocalists with lines like "how dare you question me, my superiority" and such. Her performance is very energetic, she'd sound something like Patricia Tapia of Nexx but due to a cranked-up vocal approach she is like a young reincarnation of Joan Jett. The band cleverly made use of her talent and backed her up with rough, uptempo hard rock numbers.
The first three tracks run you over and though
the mid-tempo "Hold On" is somewhat more melodic, the following two are heavy
and energetic again. As soon as your head starts twisting and turning from the
heavy shock the album takes a turn towards a more polished approach at the
second part; after the first, beautiful, piano-driven ballad "Without You" the
band calms down a bit. The closing two tracks are more of melodic rock like the
above-mentioned Nexx or I may as well mention Jamie Kyle's albums. For an
independent effort it is very strong, however the right track would be somewhere
between the two extremes, combining the melodies with the kick-ass energy.
Looking forward to their next effort.
WINTER PARADE: "Two" 7
Both the band's website and the label's promo materials emphasize that the second effort of these Norwegian dudes was mastered by Beau Hill. Quite frankly the mighty Beau must be in deep trouble these days as besides this relatively unknown Norwegian band he has also worked for an even more unknown Hungarian band some time ago. I wouldn't mind all that but this album sounds as bad as any low-budget indie demo and that's not something you'd expect from a formerly top-notch producer. Too bad the band fell for the trap of a "big name" as the song material deserves a lot more than this sound.
The second album is carved from the same wood as the first one, it is Scandinavian melodic rock ala Amaze Me, Coastland Ride, Eclipse, Wig Wam, etc. The guitar licks are tasty, there are decent keyboard lines and good enough lead and backing vocals with memorable melodies, everything you'd expect from an album like this. However a weak sound takes much of the fun away, especially compared to some independent, home studio recorded efforts lately that beat the big name's work hands down.
However fans of the genre should give Winter
Parade a chance as it would be a crying shame if great songs like "Real Life
City" or "Rollercoasting" would go unnoticed. Check the band's website for some
OPTIMYSTICAL: "Distant Encounters" 7
Optimystical is the brainchild of Robin Vagh who wrote the songs, produced the album, and recorded it with the assistance of numerous musicians. Musically it is melodic rock, a bit rough and underproduced here and there (especially when it comes to the vocals) but songwriting-wise very well done. Two vocalists contributed to the album, Jonas Blum who sang on the two Vagh albums earlier and sang two songs here and Ronnie Hagstedt who sang the rest of them. Too bad cuz Jonas' performance is much better; he sounds like a dead-ringer for Bonfire's Claus Lessman.
Songs like "Outcast", "Startide Rising" or "Face in the Window" would please any melodic rock fan however there are a few more complex tracks with some progressive rock touches like "Jennifer" or the 7 minutes long "The Unexpected" that remind me of Styx in the late 70s, early 80s. Though the album is enjoyable my main problem with it was the vocal performance or much rather the mixing of it. None of the vocalists are of extraordinary talent; they simply deliver an okay performance, yet the vocal tracks are mixed so much in the front that they stick out of the speakers. Hence both voices are exposed very much and they show their insecurities, the melodies don't stand well on their own and that ruins much of the fun.
The 55 minutes total running time with the 13
tracks is a lot for an independent effort, a shorter album with more attention
to details as far as recording and production goes would have been a wiser
choice. It's promising but not quite there yet. Check the website for some
GREAT WHITE: "Rising" 6
Great White have had their share of hardships during the years, but they've refused to throw in the towel. One has to admire their endurance, and the fact that they're still releasing decent material. While "Rising" can not match the electricity and intensity of their breakthough albums "Shot In The Dark" and "Once Bitten", it's indeed a decent enough disc, and just as good as anything they've released since their heyday. Unfortunately, for my money, their output since "Once Bitten" has been a bit patchy. There's been some excellent songs here and there, but far too often the band has chosen to churn out average tracks in the classic rock style. Actually, that pretty much sums up this album.
I have no complaints about the singing, playing or the production - the guys are rock veterans who know what they are doing. What does bother me is the fact that majority of these songs fail to leave a permanent mark. That's a pity, since the band has one of my favourite vocalists in Jack Russell, who would shine if he had stronger songs to sing.
The best moments of the album include the strong opener "Situation", the hard rockin' "Loveless", the melodic and laid-back "Is It Enough". Just like "Still Crazy" on the bands' previous album, "Loveless" has a hook that bears a strong resemblance to that of the 1987 hit "Lady Redlight", but at least the song is much better than "Still Crazy". Ballads have been one of the band's strengths before, but on "Rising" only "Last Chance" gets my vote. The athmospheric "I Don't Mind" has some fine keyboards, reminding me of the "Shot In The Dark" album, but the chorus is a letdown.
The rest of the songs don't really do anything to me. I don't hate them, but I have no strong desire to play them again. So... it's a six.
DUFF McKAGAN'S LOADED: "Sick" 6
Century Media 2009
We all know Duff McKagan from his excellent work with superbands Velvet Revolver and Guns N' Roses, unfortunately his solo albums are definitely not of the same high musical level of those notorious rockbands. His third album with Loaded is again rocky, punky and sometimes even rather commercial. By that I mean that the choruses are repeated too often and a lot of songs are rather "radiofriendly". Take for instance "Blind Date Girl", "Translucent" or "IOU". In some songs Duff is trying very hard to sound like Axel Rose, like for example in "Wasted Heart" or "Sleaze Factory and so these songs could also be on the new Guns N'Roses album...
The two rather punky and agressive songs "The Slide" and "Sick" are my two favourites, proving that Duff is able to play, sing and write great songs! Absolute horror is the totally misplaced ballad, or should I say lullaby, "Mother's Day"; an extremely dull track which does not fit on the album at all. So, if you like your dirty rock and roll a la Guns then you should check out this album, listening tip: "The Slide", a rather short but sweet punk/rock gem!!
DIRTY LOOKS: "California Free Ride" 6
For this Dirty Looks album Henrik Ostergaard vocalist, guitarist, boss have recruited yet another drummer and a guitarist, God only knows how many of those have already played in his band. Normally it doesn't really matter when it comes to Dirty Looks albums, as the music doesn't really change that much over the years anyway and you don't need to be the next Steve Vai or Scott Rockenfield to step in. However Henrik also made use of Anthony Foxc' services and that resulted in a welcome change.
For all those not familiar with the name he played guitars for Bang Tango and the Beautiful Creatures and these days he is producing albums. His contribution is audible as the band now sounds like a kick-ass mixture of Tigertailz and Bang Tango. It sounds a bit too pleasing though as compared to those bands there's an obvious lack as far as memorable hooks and sing-along refrains go.
No matter how many albums Dirty Looks have
released I always missed vocal melodies, Henrik does not seem to improve and the
last 20 years of angry-young-man screaming and shouting are not enough to
impress me. Even if the album is evidently meant to be yet another rebelling
glam-sleaze effort (and an okay one at that), I still miss memorable melodies.
Only recommended for fans of rough, energy-driven sleaze, don't expect beyond
that or anything new under the sun.
LYIN RAMPANT: "Up And Cumin'" 6
Heart Of Steel Records 2008
Heart Of Steel Records seem to be on a mission to dig up more or less obscure 80'ies hard rock acts and release their stuff on CD. Lyin' Rampant, Welsh hard rockers released this album in 1987, but failed to set the charts alight with it. Although I was an avid follower of the genre, I don't think I heard this album back then. I do remember the name of the band and the cover, so I must've seen this in a store or at least in an ad or something. Oh well, one that got away... until now.
"Up And Comin'" is an ok, if somewhat generic mixture of Heavy Pettin' and a low-budget "Pyromania"-era Def Leppard. Vocalist Stewartie Adams is a deadringer for Pettin' frontman Hamie, if a slightly toned-down version, and the riffs owe a lot to Leppard. Inbetween the harder-edged tracks there are a couple of keyboard-heavy tracks, which sound like forced attempts at "radio-friendliness". The "Pyromania"-wannabe tracks work better, but each one of them could've used more memorable hooklines.
I guess the last four tracks or so are "bonuses", some unreleased demos with very little "production". Apparently there's a video on the actual CD too - we only got these tracks in mp3-format and not that much info to go with them. The songtitles would've been a nice addition...
WETTON DOWNES ICON: "3" 5
The third album from the ASIA members Geoff Downes and John Wetton sounds unsurprisingly a lot like Asia. I don't know about you, but I could have taken this as a new Asia album as well - Wetton's distinctive voice will always be associated with Asia and it doesn't help that the songs are written by the same guys! Maybe they are just trying to free themselves of the expectations that a new Asia album would raise, and try to get some artistic freedom. Who knows.
Just like the previous two albums, "3" contains similary laid-back material, nice to listen to on the background, but not that captivating. Frankly, some of the songs are just too ethreal and vague to get into. Thankfully, there are a few songs which have a bit more edge and memorability. The first two songs ("Twice The Man I Was" and "Destiny") are quite enjoyable, but then the duo dives into the dark waters. The hard-edged "Sex, Power And Money" stands out, not because it's a great song but because it's so different to the more nondescript numbers. The album's shining AOR moment comes in the form of "Don't Go Out Tonight", which is a song with parping keyboards and a strong chorus hook, albeit somewhat familiar sounding. Quarterflash's "Diamond In The Rough" perhaps? Anyway, in the afterglow of "Don't Go...", the uptempo pop-rocker "Never Thought I'd See You" gets itself to the "Good"-section, but I'm afraid that the closing number "Peace In Our Time" doesn't, thanks to a dull excuse for a chorus.
All in all, a pleasant, if quite sleep-inducing selection of songs.
AXTON: "Bad Desire" 4
Heart Of Steel Records 2008
These Italian hard rockers released "Bad Desire" originally back in 1990, and the press info compares them to the likes of Bonfire, Fair Warning and Scorpions. I kinda understand where they are coming from, but let's face it, Axton are merely local heroes compared to those world-class acts.
At best, Axton play rather decent melodic hard rock with a slightly German feel, take the tracks number 2 and 6 for instance ("Don't Break My Heart Again" and "Wheels Are Turning" I suppose - I don't have the songtitles). At worst, the band recycle tried'n tested metal riffs and simple shout-along choruses (track 5, "Final Warning" I guess and the Accept-theft "Night Heart" or something). The production leaves a lot to be desired, and the 7 additional bonus tracks from the band's first demo (1987) don't do any favours to them either. Neither does the cover art...
I'm sure it's nice for the band, their friends and families and the fans who were around at the time to have this album in CD format, but I don't think that a lot of other people will find this an essential addition to their collection.
WEDNESDAY 13: "Bloodwork EP"
Released to tie in with his UK tour (along with The Chelsea Smiles), "Bloodwork" sees perennial angsy monkey Wednesday 13 give us six tracks to whet the collective appetite, including a rather good version of Tom Petty's "Running Down A Dream".
there's nothing particularly new here, and I understand the EP has been available for some time now as a download. If you are a fan of Wendy it's a nice little addition to your collection, with two cracking Alice Cooper/Marilyn Manson type rockers in "b-Movie babylon" and "Return On The Living Dead". Both these songs are unreleased elsewhere, and both will delight fans. There's also pretty cool acoustic versions of "My Demise" and "Skeletons" as well as the parent bothering shcok rock of "I Like To Say Fuck".
So, as an EP this certainly offers some interesting tracks, with two new, two acoustic, one cover and one sweary re recording. If you are a fan then you could do a lot worse than to pick it up. See you on tour...
PURE REASON REVOLUTION: "Amor Vincit Omnia" 3
Superball Records 2009
"The Dark Third", the previous album of Pure Reason Revolution got a well deserved 9 from me, more than 2 years ago. So I was really looking forward to this new PRR album, but after listening to it for a couple of times I was wondering if this was the same brilliant band of "The Dark Third"? Where the hell is their awesome prog rock music, better put, where is the music on "Amor Vincit Omnia"??
I feel/think that the eight new songs on the album certainly miss rock ingredients; also there are no solos and it is only tiresome electronic loops and beats. In fact it is rather mechanical and very "cold" music, without any emotion whatsoever. There are also a lot of dance and trance influences which I really could do without. Furthermore the annoying polyphonic vocals, which dominate almost the entire album, tend to get on my bloody nerves. So, I do not get this album, what is wrong with PRR, or is there something wrong with me?? Listen to totally boring tracks like "Bloodless", "AVO" or "Les Malheurs" and you feel that you are listening to Depeche Mode or that sort of new wave shite.....
THE GREAT KAT: "Beethoven's Guitar Shred" 0
The Great Kat has been torturing classical music lovers for over twenty years now, her notoriety keeping her name alive far longer than her music ever could. After watching “Beethoven’s Guitar Shred” a few times I’m still not remotely sure what the point of it all is.
Firstly, you have Katherine herself, who is absolutely hilarious, although I doubt she thinks so. She stands legs astride, often covered in fake blood, her mouth open and a mental look in her eyes. This is her permanent posture throughout what is possibly the biggest rip off of a DVD ever to be released. You get seven videos and a few extras, all of which come to a running total of about 10 minutes! In some ways it’s mercifully short and I for one am glad I didn’t waste any more time than that, but if I’d paid actual money I’d be well pissed off.
Musically it’s a mess. Sure, Katherine can play really really fast, but in applying her shredding style to the likes of “Flight Of The Bumble Bee” and “Beethoven’s 5th” she takes away everything that is great about those pieces of music and reduces them to a series of notes fighting for space. On one extra video she calls herself “The New Beethoven”, which made me spill my cup of tea. The real difference between her and Beethoven is that he was deaf and she makes you wish you were deaf. Mind you, the video for “Islamofacists”, where she ‘kills’ terrorists made me wish I was blind as well. Please will people stop buying her records so she will just go away, and that goes double for a ten minute DVD.
|REVIEWS ADDED 05 March, 2009
ALIAS: "Never Say Never" 9
This is the second Alias album that was supposed to be released back in 1992 or so. However self-respecting Alias fans could have gotten their hands on it before as there were several different versions of various quality floating around on the Internet. I remember back in the early days of CD-R trading when I myself have not owned a burning device I gave two original albums for a CD-R copy of the "unreleased second Alias album" and it was well worth it. Since then the world has turned and some of these songs were officially released on Freddy Curci's solo album as well as on James Christian's "Rude Awakening". For the rest of the songs it's the first proper quality release.
I doubt there is anyone into AOR not familiar with the band, "More Than Words Can Say" and "Waiting For Love" were huge MTV Hits and the first album is an essential one in any AOR fan's collection. The second is just as good as the first one, if not better. The already released tracks like "Bare Necessity", "Perfect World", "Diamonds" from Freddy's solo or "Pleasure And Pain" or "Woman Enough" from the James Christian album were convincing enough no doubt. And I might add that there are some even better tracks than those to discover for all those who have not managed to acquire a bootlegged copy before.
I had several different versions with different
track-listings but none of them had as many 17 tracks as this one also includes
"Call Me", originally a B-side cut of the first album. The running order is
relatively well thought-after and it is simply damn good to hear these tracks in
decent enough quality. The songwriting material well deserves it. A must unless
you were lucky enough to have a first hand copy of the original studio tapes.
THIN LIZZY: "Still Dangerous" 9
Thin Lizzy Productions 2009
Another year, another ‘lost’ Thin Lizzy live recording. Last year I gushed and slobbered over the excellent “UK Tour 75” release, and now we have what has been hailed as a gem to rival the heretofore unrivalled “Live & Dangerous”, at least according to the press releases. Whereas “Live & Dangerous” was recorded in London and, shall we say, ‘tweaked’ prior to release, we are reliably informed that “Still Dangerous” is as close as we’re going to get to how the band really sounded in Philadelphia 1977.
So this is live album number 8, and what you want to know is, is it really worth getting, especially if you have the other seven? Well, if you have the other seven you must be a massive Lizzy fan, so I doubt wild horses would be able to stop you getting this. For everyone else, it’s certainly not going to disappoint anyone, although it’s debatable whether you really need this if you have two of three of the others.
What “Still Dangerous” does have is three tracks that don’t feature on “Live & Dangerous”, namely “Soldier Of Fortune”, “Opium Trail” and “Me & The Boys”. Technically, the album really does sound fantastic as well, with Glyn Johns bringing the production up to acceptable 2009 standards. Lynott, Gorham, Robertson and Downey don’t put a foot wrong, with Lynott toning down the chat and concentrating on a sterling performance, just another example of why he is so missed. The concert clocks in at a meagre 47 minutes, but it’s all tight as you want, with no space wasted. Personally, I’m very happy to have this alongside “L&D” and “UK Tour 75” in my collection, and so will you be.
XYZ: "Best Of" 9+5/2=7
Perris Records decided to release a best of for one of the most underrated bands of the entire genre, I am still reluctant to rave about it. Not that XYZ didn't deserve a best of, I may not be the only one to believe that as far as musicianship and songwriting skills go, they could have easily been the next Mr Big. As we all know after the first two relatively successful albums (at least successful among critiques) they could never live up to their potentials. But they had two more full albums, a demo collection, and a live album released with four studio bonus tracks, not to mention the countless bootlegs circling around. Yet this best of only contains tracks from the first two albums and a new track thrown in that is nowhere near the rest of the songs.
I'd easily agree that the first two albums are by far their best efforts, Diglio's guitar work is simply stunning and Terry Ilous throat plays in the Champion's League of vocalists. The band's chemistry was extremely strong those days, if you listen to the drum and bass tracks of songs like "Don't Say No" or "Off to the Sun" your head would turn of the thumping bass tracks and the cool drum breaks. If the band only had two albums no one could ever complain about this best of as (almost all) the best tracks got selected. The opening five tracks blow your head off. All the cool rockers are included here (except for "Nice Day to Die", "H.H. Boogie" and "Whiskey On a Heartache") and the ballad selection is also good though I personally missed "After The Rain" very much as I liked that song so very much that I used it to warm my voice up before gigs back in 1990 or so.
All in all it is an extremely strong collection
yet I do not see its point. If you own the first two albums it does not offer
anything new, "Falling in You", the bonus track thrown in is an okay, moody,
acoustic ballad but it is placed after "When I Find Love", probably the best
ballad of the band so it simply pales in comparison. A single new track alone is
not enough to make this a value for your money release, especially if you add
the cheapo looking art(?)work and the complete ignorance of four other releases
of the band. Hence the mathematics of the rating, 9 stands for the song
material, 5 for the rest of the "package" if you know what I mean. I would have
expected a lot broader selection and some more goodies like acoustic version,
alternative versions, live versions, things that normally make me buy the 'best
of' of a band whose backing catalog sits in perfect timely order in my
Iain Ashley HERSEY: "Nomad" 7
Iain Ashley Hersey is a Berklee graduate yet he managed to stay true to his bluesy rock roots and delivered an album that could have easily been sold as some unreleased Whitesnake or Deep Purple demos from the late 70s, early 80s. In order to complete that picture he recruited Doogie White for the vocal duties (who else once you can't afford Coverdale? Maybe Jorn Lande was not available… heh!) as well as Casanova/Demon Drive musicians. The idea worked really well, the album sounds traditional European or rather British hard rock more than you'd expect.
Thick guitar riffs, cool organ sounds, and simple yet catchy refrains are characteristic for the album. The production is okay, I could have done with a bit more polished backing vocals, a sound with less middles, and the ride cymbal is sometimes so much in the front that the corner of my eyes starts ticking; other than that the mix is rather balanced, all instruments are audible. As for songs, they are all of good quality; it's hard to name any favorites. Personally I liked "Vintage Love" a lot, as well as "Voodoo Spirits" with its cool opening riff drowning some weirdo yodel intro.
The only downside of the album is the relatively
one-sided arrangement. Some tempo and overall approach changes or a few acoustic
tracks would have helped to make the album a bit more vivid. The wall of sounds
built by the Hammond and the deep tones riffs get a bit overwhelming by the end
of the album. But if you like the sound of the above-mentioned bands or the
previous works of the contributing you won't be disappointed with this one
Tadashi GOTO: "Innervisions" 5
ProgRock Records 2008
Warning: You'd only understand some points
made in this review if:
Though the guest line-up of this album is more than impressive as it includes Ty Tabor, Chris Poland, Tony Franklin, etc. the final product (let's call it instrumental techno progressive metal for the cataloguist's sake) is as twisted as its artwork. Tadashi Goto is a keyboard wizard who managed to squeeze as many ideas into a dozen songs as most musicians have in a lifetime. As you'd expect the result is one big chaotic mess. The second track titled "The Cycle of Suffering" defines both the tone of the album and my feelings pretty darn well. Take a listen to that at the label's site and if you like it, go on with the rest of the album, if not, then just don't bother cuz you'll get a serious headache by the end. Some of the keyboard sounds were designed to torture (read point number 1 above), topped with some of the programmed drum sounds they bring back sweet memories (read point number 2… "Goto" makes some sense in that context, ain't it? Heh!). There are far too many tempo and theme changes within the tracks to follow and none of them really come together as a "song". At least that's how I felt with the first two tracks, there was not a melody to remember and in general I missed "harmony" from them.
Then "Inner Circle" smoothened some of my nerves and I realized that the really weird thing is that this guy can actually write some really good music. Tunes like "Inner Circle" or "Inner Peace" are as beautiful as their titles suggest, they remind me of the smooth jazz kings Spyro Gyra, yet Tadashi keeps torturing the listener with compositions like "The Deepest Depression" or "Liberal Paradox" which are really pushing the boundaries of the listener's tolerance. If that was the plan, if this album is an experiment to match several psychological stages to their subconscious musical manifestations, this guy is a genius. However I do believe music should be aimed at entertainment and the album offers little of that.
BLOODPIT: "Recovered" EP
Backstage Alliance/Playground 2008
In 2007, after two albums, the story of Bloodpit seemed to have come to an end. Vocalist Matthau Mikojan and the rest of the band went their separate ways, Mikojan started a solo career while the band went on a hiatus. In late 2008, they announced that a new vocalist and a guitarist had been found, and this EP is the first product from Bloodpit Mark II. The new vocalist is Antti Ravín and on guitar there's one Petri "Pietu" Hiltunen, in addition to the remaining line-up of Paavo Pekkonen (guitar), Aleksi Keränen (bass) (basso) and Alarik Valamo (drums).
"Recovered" contains 4 cover songs and two new Bloodpit-originals. "For You To Be Safe" is an athmospheric, melodic rock track and quite unlike what I remembered the band to be like. New vocalist Antti is very good, reminding me a lot of Mark Rankin of Gun. The other new song "Rewired" is a less appealing one, but it does have its' moments.
The cover songs are quite interesting. I prefer Bloodpit's version of Marilyn Manson's "Coma White" to the original, they add some much-needed warmth to the song. I Wonder what the MM fans think of it... "how dare they take his song and...un-freak it?!". The Stiltskin cover "Inside" works really well too, but I'm not that much into the Placebo and Hüsker Dü covers, although they are well executed.
The next album might be a "make-it-or-break-it" one for the band, but on the strength of these tracks, I think it might just be the first alternative. We'll see.
|REVIEWS ADDED 25 February, 2009
JOYFOCUS: "Cyber Suburban Electro Rock Circus" 9
Ehem, not sure what the A&R responsible at 'write-any-company-name-here' have been up to for the past couple of months or years. However, he/she surely can't be working, the most impressive CD's as of lately are all from unsigned acts (Tenth Planet, Cold Truth, etc). Here's yet another K.O. winner, an absolutely fabulous little effort from the land of plenty (US of A). Joyfocus is the name and utterly commercial and catchy Power Pop/Rock is the game. It's music deeply rooted in the 80's scene with a more up-to-date production.
Joyfocus, what a great moniker and the title of their CD kind of explains it all. Ehem, does it? Yes, it's quite obvious, it's a: "Cyber Suburban Electro Rock Circus" - pay attention bucko. I really have to include Joyfocus' description of their music as it's very entertaining reading and sort of true. Quote, "If Dave Stewart & Brian May were left to baby sit Ty Tabor's children - with their friend's from Abba - and they all happened to be watching a Prince music video, directed by John Hughes, on late 1984 music television - while talking on the phone to Bryan Adams as he was humming "Your Love" by The Outfield inside a brick house, on electric avenue, in the middle of the street, time after time, in a land down under - I think you see where we are going with this", end quote.
Indeed, this is a duo much like Roxette or Eurythmics (yes, proud to be 80's fans @RockUnited) with a great female vocalist, Holly Joy, (what a name - I think I'm in love) and the multi-talanted, Rikk Currence (guitars/keys/production/writer). Holly is a pure 'Joy' to listen to with sweet harmonies in the vein of Wilson/Phillips (they were huge in the early 90's) and a remarkable strong persona. Opening track, "Audrey Is Gone", is close to the Wilson/Phillips sound only with crunchy guitars and a touch of The Outfields. "Princess Samantha" is modern power-pop with a 80's flirt. "Grey Day My Way", quirky songwriting in the vein of "Six Broken Soldiers" (King's X) done in a power-pop version and with a mind opening refrain 'ala Cyndi Lauper (or should that be 'The Hooters' or 'i-Ten' as they wrote her biggest hits)."Prayer" is a superb ballad and, "All That You Need", will walk you through the 'Mutt' sound via The Cars to Def Leppard guitars and to the twang of Shania Twain. Really catchy stuff and this will also have you thinking about an out and rocking version of Kelly Clarkson.
You'll also find a fun cover version of, "Here Comes The Rain Again" (Eurythmics). Holly doesn't have the "aggressive" singing style of Annie Lennox and she may even sound a little bit too fragile here. Final verdict: Joyfocus - radio friendly music that any sane A&R person would not think twice about signing. Highly recommended and yet another 'indie' release that came close to scoring a perfect ten rating. High fives all around and I better start up my own record label for g-r-e-a-t artists such as these. Check out the band asap at itunes or the link below.
Angus CLARK: "Your Last Battlefield" 9
Angus Clark is a member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and the former lead guitarist for Kitaro. With that said one expects quality stuff from him and he delivers it flawlessly. The album is a fine mixture of several influences, none of them too overwhelming to make the tunes one-sided but all of them adding a spicy taste to the entire final product. There's some progressive rock, some Sabbath, some Hendrix, some oriental melodies, and I even sense some ethnic touches here and there. The album gives you a lot to discover yourself, more than your average instrumental guitar album.
It starts out with two easy-to-digest numbers, both midtempo rockers with catchy melodies and cool grooves. Then with "Drunk Kligons" it gets a bit more edgy, it's like ZZ Top on a healthy dose of acid (is there such a thing?). Then the 6 minutes long epic "Burning Cities of Cheron" shows the real depth of Angus' musical genius, it is a great progressive rock tune with countless tempo and general approach changes and an extraordinary contribution on violin from Anna Phoebe (also in Trans-Siberian Orchestra). It's the track to check out before going for the album; if you like this one, you'll love the rest. "Redjac the Menace" is another easy-going one, something even Satriani fans would appreciate, one of my personal favorites of the album; so is "Pleasure Planet" with its straightforward lead and catchy melodies. "The Dohlman's Tears" is more for the open-minded with its oriental melodies on the sitar.
The haunting "Let Me Help" is a beautiful
ballad, nothing special just beautiful melodies that cut right into your bones.
Then there's some more prog-rock stuff to follow, some heavy rock, some Hendrix,
and lots of other stuff you might hear in the songs depending on your own
musical influences. The countless influences listed might suggest a chaotic,
cacophonic mess but the album is really not like that at all. It is a well
thought after product with extraordinary musicianship but most of all the result
of very good songwriting skills that manage to melt several genres into
enjoyable and catchy songs. As the album is available in digital only form, make
sure to check Angus' website out.
INFERNOPHONIC: "Spark It Up" 8
Great motherfunkers!!! We haven't noticed such a great and funky hardrock groove in a very long time. Quite possible not even since the era of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Electric Boys and their massive attack of funk-o-metal carpet ride. Not that you can compare apples to pears. The music of Infernophonic's doesn't sound much like the Swedes... but the groove... these rockers certainly have the funky and catchy groove going on at 100%.
Formed in early ’06, Infernophonic is the brain-child of Kevin Bolembach, former Bassist for NJ doom-rock legends: Non-Fiction. Seeking an outlet for his 70’s style sub-sonic funky hardrock assault, Bolembach cherry-picked the tri-state’s most formidable musicians to reincarnate the classic power trio of yesteryear. The group is blessed with a A+ killer female vocalist, Elaine Tuttle. We're talking about close to quality in the vein of Grace Slick or Sandi Saraya (from the band: Saraya). Elaine is just incredible fun to listen to with her gutsy, mean, vocal performances. Indeed, 'The Tuttle' is basically pouring out her little heart and soul for you schmucks. Pay attention as you won't get a better description of a banshee at work.
The music is really aggressive funky hardrock with its roots in the 70's. However, they're not afraid to blend in a little bit of today's scene. It's actually a great mix of Mother's Finest, Stevie Salas Colorcode, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, and Skindred (minus their most obvious ska influences of course). Bolembach is definitely a bad-azz bassist and make a excellent team together with Courtney Williams (drums). They're constantly coming up with tricky, funky, beats, and lines. Opening track, "Anyone Else", a great mix of Mother's Finest and Saraya. The closing track, "Eye Of The Jedi", a great mix of Skindred and Red Hot Chili Peppers. In between you have ten more tracks which will have you up and dancing in no time.
You can also find the track "Say Watcha Mean' on a Catz N Clawz compilation CD (Fireworks Magazine). Add a production done by Alan Evans at the famous Applehead Studios in Woodstock, NY (Coheed And Cambria, King Crimson, etc) and you're in for a mighty fine time. Yet another "indie" release which basically wipes the floor with most hardrock releases of 09'. Recommended.
FRANKY DEE: "If I Had A Fortune" 6
I still haven't figured out why I just don't dislike this CD and get on with watching football on the old tube. It could simply be that Franky Dee is old school and a very fine vocalist. I once described him with the following words: "imagine if that Steelheart vocalist (Mijatevic? Matjevic? whatevervic?) would drop his balls a bit a-la Tom Keifer (Cinderella) and you'd be pretty close".
Eh, sure, Dee can reach a couple of high notes and still sound pretty masculine. It's just that some of these tracks are kinda... ehh... cheesy. Like, you know, some of the early/mid 70's Pop/Rock artists. Anyhow, let's start out with the good stuff. Opener and titletrack, "If I Had A Fortune", sleaze/rock, sort of reminded me of Teeze and all those 'almost' famous acts of the 80's. "Sexy Dancer" has a nice groove and would fit perfectly as one of those songs at your local strip-joint. This song features one of Franky's friends on guest vocal rap, namely Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit.
Covers, you want covers? Sure, we have, "Anyway You Want It", the old Journey tune and Dee does it sort of justice with a different approach during the verses. Robert Sarzo of Hurricane fame guest appears on guitars. "Tie Your Mother Down", the old Queen rocker will sound ok on a saturday night. "Spirit In The Sky", not my favourite kind of dance music. I believe the original version is from the ancient era of 1970 or sumthin and written by Norman Greenbaum. Some crazy U.K. poppers (Doctor & The Medics) recorded it in the mid/late 80's.
The cheesy part definitely starts with the piano ballad, "When You Find Someone", which in all honestly sounds like a poor outtake of "The Rose" (Bette Midler). "Those Days Are Over", utterly cheesy Pop/Rock in the vein of U.K. wimp-act, Smokie. The same goes for the slightly "heavier" track, "I Will Remember You". You'll have to take the good with the bad as this platter is very much a case of up's and down's. Check out soundclips at the links below
PUSHING RED BUTTONS: "The Butterfly Net" 7
The Underground Kings of Weird Rock (as we like to call them) are back. As weird as they are, they really can't be back as Pushing Red Buttons is a band that never really existed; they took a break from not being a band by taking a break from their regular bands and music industry jobs and recorded their fourth album which is as puzzling as their previous three were. These guys can play their instruments for sure, they can write music no doubt, yet they refuse to take it seriously. There's a general tongue in cheek approach on all of their albums and their four years long break made that even more evident.
I guess they use the Pushing Red Buttons moniker as a valve to get the steam off that they collect in their other occupations. As a result you get a weird mixture of the Beatles, Yes, and even some contemporary stuff like the Radioheads and such. I guess the safest is to say they are like the mental reincarnation of Frank Zappa minus the self-destructive nature. Take a listen to the more than 9 minutes long title track of the album as it pretty much represents their entire approach and the sound of the album; if you like that you are free to go on, if you don't you shouldn't bother, you won't like the rest either.
One has to be in the right mood and prepared for
the total negligence of normalcy when approaching the album otherwise it's gonna
get on your nerves. If you pay attention you'll hear damn good guitar and
keyboard solos so you get something to enjoy even if the lyrics or the vocal
melodies fail to grab you. Progressive rock fans might easily give it a try but
absolutely not recommended for strict AOR or melodic rock fans or those out of
their sense of humor.
THERAPY: "Crooked Timber" 6
Therapy? are always a hard band to summarise. By turns exciting, quirky and mundane, they refuse to be pigeonholed, always attracting their fair share of poor reviews alongside the glowing ones. The thing about Therapy? for me is the fact that they are always a fantastic live band, and as a result their studio recordings seem to pale in comparison with the concert experience.
“Crooked Timber” is the bands 13th album in what has been a pretty solid career over the last 18 years. Sure, there have been the usual ups and downs, but I’ve yet to hear an album by the band that I didn’t like. This new one is no exception, and in typical Therapy? style it’s not something that’s going to stick in your head after a couple of listens. The visceral, aggressive style will grab you from the off, with “The Head That Tried To Strangle Itself” a good choice of opener, but as a whole it’s a bit of a slog, more so if you’re new to the band.
There’s some great tracks on offer here, such as the Marilyn Mansonesque “Enjoy The Struggle”, the fast paced “Clowns Galore” and cool instrumentals in the shape of “Magic Mountain” and “Exiles“(well, the last is mostly an instrumental). Andy Cairns, for me, has never been a great singer in the studio, and he stays true to form here. If I’m honest, his delivery on some tracks, such as “Crooked Timber”, takes the song to a melancholy level that is hard to escape. It’s the vocals that give me the most trouble with “Crooked Timber”, because Cairns seems to be flat as the proverbial pancake for most of it. Coupled with a production that screams out for a decent remix, what should have been a fascinating album has ended up as one that I will rarely be revisiting. So, I’m going to file this one under “Disappointing”, but I’m sure there will be plenty of existing fans who will enjoy it nonetheless.
HARD SPIRIT: "Walk The Wild" 5
There's nothing remotely wrong about Hard Spirit and their music. It's just one of those things... and the harder you try NOT to pay attention, the more you'll notice it throughout the album. Their lead vocalist is blessed with a rather thick singing accent (spanish blokes they are) and it could actually work as a buzz kill for some of you out there.
They are otherwise a snappy, melodic hardrock, act. They're screaming out "Rock Is Life", on the opening track and you can't help to grin along to the corny lyrics. This group of conquistadores cranks out their tunes on full volume in the hardrock vein of Hardline, with the melodic leanings of Firehouse. While ranking as second rate copies to their hairmetal influences, they still capture a rather fun attitude and guitar oriented style.
It's definitely music to enjoy live at your local 80's rock club. However, they're not as good as say, their Italian brothers of Hungryheart (which we reviewed recently). I'm not exactly sure over what they're talking about regarding 'Walk The Wild'. Are we supposed to take a wild bunch out for a walk... or are we talking about a walk in the wild??? Beats me, I'm merely trying to figure out their pizazz here.
DARK LORD: "The Nighttime Years" 4Heart Of Steel Records 2009
Review by Alan Holloway,
20th February 2009
Nostalgia can be a great thing, as can revisiting classic melodic albums from your youth. I recently rediscovered the band Q5 and had lots of happy metal tingles listening to their albums. Not everything nostalgic, however, is good. Just because something was released in the 80's doesn't make it any good, as there was a lot of crao around to make Bon Jovi and Journey look better.
Italian melodic metallers Dark Lord released their debut way back in 1986, and Heart Of STeel Records have seen fit to giove us all another chance to listen to it, though there's not many compelling reasions why you should. Maybe you're a Dokken completist and want everything that Alex De Rosso ever played on, but that's about it.
"The Nighttime Years" is a wholly unremarkable album, full of competently played melodic metal that more often than not just fails to ignite any real excitement. Guitars are good, vocals are okay, production is okay - you now the drill. The songs are very rooted in the 80's, and you can imagine big haired videos being made with plenty of dry ice. WHen I was a teenager I probably would have quite liked this, but not for too long, as there were so many better bands out there.
There's 8 live tracks tacked on to the end of this re release, but the quality is pretty negligable, adding nothing of any real value to the existing content. If a few good choruses wedged into some average songs are what makes you get out of bed in the morning then go nuts for Dark Lord, but everyone else need not bother.
|REVIEWS ADDED 19 February, 2009
JSS: "Beautiful Mess" 10
Let me get this straight: I'm positively biased when it comes to Jeff Scott Soto's (or JSS's, as he prefers to ne known these days) work and if he ever decided to sing the phone book, I'd still be interested. With that said we might as well take a closer look at his new effort. I guess the title is more than fitting in case Jeff wanted to emphasize that the album is a huge melting pot of various influences but most importantly those of funky, hard rock, and some blues. The first may be the problem for the "average" rock fan but personally I don't mind it at all as he does justice to funky with an unbelievable ease and smoothness with regards to vocal performance.
Fans of his earlier albums will not be disappointed either as the album starts of with "21st Century" just where "Lost in the Translation" left off. "Cry Me a River" is another cool rocker and both opening tracks have a really cool vibe and a groove to get to your bones. That's the blessing effect of Jeff's funky interest and it really gives a special spice to this album. It is to taste throughout the entire album yet it does not get too much, at least not for my taste. "Mountain" or "Bring It Home" may be a bit too much for the majority as those are pure old school funky stuff but haunting ballads like "Gin & Tonic Sky" or "Eye" and midtempo rockers like "Wherever You Wanna Go" or "Hey" will please those more into straightforward melodic rock.
Most of the
instruments were handled by Paulo Mendoca who did a stunning job both as
musician and as producer. Nothing's really overplayed here, solos are
tasty, the arrangements are just very well-planned, lots of acoustic guitars
spice up the slow and midtempo tunes and the backing vocals are as good as ever.
To be honest at first I automatically gave the album 9 points as I normally do
not hand out perfect 10s ever so often, then I took another look and tried to
find any reasons for the deduction but taking a second look at musicianship,
vocal performance, songwriting, and production I found no flaws, so there you
go, I took a deep sigh and yours truly went for the 10. All you have to do is to
go for the album.
TENTH PLANET: "Everything Is Never Over" 9
Bittersweet, definitely bittersweet... plus a huge friggin' production by Jeff Martin of The Tea Party fame and Mike Turner (Our Lady Peace). Indeed, "Everything Is Never Over" is simply put a marvelous, marvelous, (dark & moody) melodic album and it's merely a shame we didn't receive this until now for review. Yep, it's unfortunately a 2008 release and it would easily have been at the very top of my list of the year.
Tenth Planet are from Canada and they've created a monster CD full of top notch melodies and emotional vocals. The band consisting of Martin Ouellette (vocals), Brian Paul (guitars), Johnny Pegg (bass) and Mauro Scatozza (drums) are actually mixing the best of both worlds. They have somehow managed to control the power of STP, Soundgarden (era ' Super Unknown') with the pure genius rock stuff of acts such as David Bowie, U2, Tea Party, and just a hint of Nickelback and Savage Garden.
The CD simply oozes of sheer class and it r-e-a-l-l-y annoys me that Tenth Planet is an unsigned band. What the heck is wrong with the music industry of today if they can't even find gold nuggets such as these??? These lads have succeeded in both heaviness and commerical approach and should be every A&R's wet dream. Not to mention they have a great vocalist (check out "Dissolution Meditation" where Ouellette sings at the lower register in a similar style as a certain David Bowie) as well as the image. I can't even single out any track as they're all part of this must-have CD (yeah, I know, I'm starting to sound like a fan-boy).
HARDREAMS: "The Road Goes On" 8
When getting this album I was surprised to see it's already the band's second album and the first one was out on Vinny Records, a small label that bit the dust right after the release of the band's debut. Too bad cuz I have to track that down somehow, judging from this release it can't be all that bad either as "The Road Goes On" is good-time melodic rock with a decent touch of Alias, Danger Danger, Nelson, etc. As Hardreams are Spanish 91 Suite or Nexx also come to mind as obvious comparisons.
These guys write damn good hooks, the vocal melodies are catchy, the balance of guitar riffs and keyboard lines is just perfect and as a result we get an easy-to-digest melodic rock album. Manu Esteve's vocals are absolutely top notch, Göran Edman comes to mind as an obvious reference and David Agüra's guitar work is also really enjoyable, simple but well-written riffs support the good vocal melodies. Sergi Segarra's keyboards are not overplayed, they are not mixed too much in the front either, and therefore the overall balance of the sound is just what you expect from an AOR album.
It's hard to name any highlights as all the
songs are very well-written. There are two reasons for not giving them a better
rating: (normally song titles like "Rebel Heart" or "Too Late" mean minus one
point… at least they didn't include a "Hold On" or a "Rock Me") It's hard to
forgive the far too obvious resemblance of the title track to Mr Big's "Promise
Her the Moon". Furthermore Manu needs to work on his accent a lot. The lyrics
are barely understandable, not that the above-mentioned song titles or the title
track suggest such deep messages anyway, yet unless we talk about an
instrumental album or some death metal growl lyrics might be somewhat of
interest for some listeners. Other than that it's an absolutely well done album,
highly recommended indeed. [Gotta wonder how many porn search hits their website
gets with this name… Check the site out for a listen:]
KINGDOM COME: "Magnified" 6
Planet Music 2009
We all know the story of Kingdom Come. Their superb debut album had Led Zeppelin influences on about half of the songs. Something which were considered as sacrilege and way out of order according to U.K. journalists (they basically told the band to feck off and die). Back in those days (1988, pre-internet) cranky, old fart journos, pretty much ruled the industry with their words and opinions... and soon enough the trusty mob of "highly respected" musicians and other tools were to follow.
Yeah, right, Page/Plant, never stole, copied, or borrowed, any riffs or melodies from earlier blues musicians? Nah, surely not [sarcastic mode off]. Then again, they mostly copied "black" artists, so... no-one gives a damn, huh? Anyhow, fast forward to present date and Lenny Wolf are now building a bridge between the 2009 industrial and mystery elements, and yet still providing us the the typical KC (or should that read LZ?) riff oriented guitarwork. "Magnified" is a rather 'groovy' effort and at times, too overwhelming in its desire to be contemporary. I'm one of them who'd rather have a basic platter 'ala the debut, but alas, no such luck.
A quick track by track: opener, "Living Dynamite", kicks off things with R&B percussions and a funky beat. Yeah, me too, however, it's a real grower and the refrain is typical KC/Zeppelin. "No Murderer I Kiss", ultra-heavy rock with dark lyrics and a grungy approach. Great groove, sadly, no killer hook nor refrain. "24 Hours" is a fine ballad with goth-like keyboards in the background. "So Unreal", could just as easily have been an early 70's rock tune. "When I Was" isn't so much a song rather than a studio groove. "Over You" is a great slow song and the refrain smells like The Beatles (great). "Sweet Killing", trip, club, rave, keyboards in the background. "Unwritten Language" is a semi-ballad done in a style made popular by the Scorpions in Germany. "Hey Mama" is again, very groove, not as much catchy. "The Machine Inside", the real uptempo winner of the bunch. Smashing goth/club keyboards and a refrain that basically kicks like a mule to the head. Closing track, "Feeding The Flame", yet another fine guitar ballad.
Final verdict: very groovy, great ballads, a couple of great uptempo rockers. Again, a rather solid effort by Lenny & The Wolves. I seriously doubt you'd be howling at the moon afterwards though.
|REVIEWS ADDED 11 February, 2009
SIXTY 8: "Before The Fall" 8
Sixty 8, a band deeply involved in the onset of what we know as 80's Metal, has perserved through the trails of the dodgy music industry as well as their absolute lack of image. Seriously, it's like they've all been recently released from prison (hey, what do I know?) doing time for all the most horrible things possible by mankind. Vocalist, Trig Bundgaard (huh?) have the 'I-eat-children' tag around his neck and his brothers in arms aren't exactly looking the part either.
Nevertheless, the music doesn't sound half as bad... and at first listen, it's just another humanrian display of rock in the vein of G N' R and Skid Row (their most aggressive work). The menacing, thrilling, guitarwork, and the strong and upfront vocals by Trig (really?) does add an extra spice and style of their own. The smashing tunes, "The Race Goes On" and "I Won't Play", captures their raw energy right down to the core. What was bottled up for years and years comes screaming out with all the control and rage of Trig and his powerful vocals.
Ladies, no need to worry, there's something smooth and sweet in between all the male aggressive rock songs. "All She's Ever Known" and "Confessions", are a fine guitar ballads with Trig doing his best 'Axl Rose' impression without sounding like a total jerk, I may add. The latter is a real tear-jerker though. Final Verdict: these geezers are definitely worthy of your attention, if you should fancy the raw and mean sound of Guns N' Roses, Skid Row, and just a small hint of Pantera 'ala their 'Cowboys From Hell' period (when they were still great, not the awful albums that came out later on). Kikk-azz. Check 'em out at MySpace (link below).
HUNGRYHEART: "HungryHeart" 7
The Boss once sang: 'everybodys got a hungry heart' - so... how's your appetite for some pure hairmetal or if you prefer melodic hardrock? Good, yeah, well, keep on reading as the lads are working the clichés in a rather favourable way and style. Don't expect anything brand new or 'fresh' (whatever that means), than somewhat fun, guitar orientied, 80's/early 90's rock in the vein of Firehouse, White Lion, Guardian (their selftitled debut) and Giant.
It's a bit too obvious at times. Their influences are showing on their sleeves and most tracks will have you in a constant state of deja vú. "The Only One" and especially the chorus part (hook/guitarwork) will definitely remind you of White Lion and their 'Broken Heart' (simply replace 'only one' with 'broken heart' and you'll notice it too). "River Of Soul" will have you seriously thinking about Tattoo Rodeo, and "It Takes Two", with its 'Fallen Angel' (Poison) riff is nuthin' bout a minor rip-off. It's all good fun though and Josh Zighetti is an Italian power vocalist if ever.
Not to mention that Mario Percudani is simply put a well crafted guitarist. Check out the song, "Innocent Tears", where Mario pulls off a nice little number á la Kee Marcello during, 'Out Of This World'. I'd say that Kee and Vito Bratta are some of this blokes biggest heroes and influences. Hardly as flawless nor great, but he's pretty flashy at both rhythm and solo parts and this goes on throughout the CD. Definitely a CD to check out if you enjoy above mentioned acts. Just don't come running to me if you've heard it all before. It's catchy though...
HOT LEG: "Red Light Fever" 7
Barbecue Rock 2009
Well, this one’s gonna divide opinion like the new Doctor Who, although the good Doctor doesn’t have to win people over with a love it/hate it squeaky rock voice, just floppy hair And a big chin. In case you didn’t know, Hot Leg is the new venture from one time Darkness front man Justin Hawkins, and let me make it clear that if you didn’t like The Darkness you certainly won’t like Hot leg.
Me? I liked The Darkness, once I’d got used to his voice, so was ready to like Hot Leg without too much fuss. The recent single “I’ve Met Jesus” floated my boat with it’s catchy refrain and rock funk guitar, and opener “Chickens” confirmed that all is okay in Justin’s overblown rock world. Vocally, it’s a case of him using the same tricks as before, his falsetto squawk climbing higher and higher until windows crack. There’s some cool licks and solos from Hawkins and Pete Rinaldi, and plenty of catchy, upbeat cock rock that drips irony and sarcasm like a leak in an Irony & Sarcasm factory.
The thing is, has this sort of thing been and gone with The Darkness? Do we really need Hawkins to sing about being “Gay In the 80s”, or how shit reality pop shows are in “Ashamed”? Well, the answer is a definite No, because we don’t actually need this. Then again, we don’t need beer, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, and the same is true for Hot Leg. The aforementioned “Ashamed” is a cracking song with good lyrics, and it’s joined by some lively friends that combine to make an enjoyably silly album.
As I’ve said, “Red Light Fever” is unlikely to make Justin Hawkins any new friends, but all his old ones should have a blast. For me, it’s not as good as The Darkness albums, missing the partnership with brother Dan Hawkins perhaps. Nonetheless, it’s a happy little slice of cock rock, accompanied by awful haircuts, tacky headbands and much pouting. Let’s hope they continue, because it would be a drabber world without them.
H.A.R.D: "Traveler" 6
Ask around about which band member is the most important one in a group and you'll get a lot of different answers. You obviously need a decent songwriter or two, a wicked guitar player, and why not a gifted singer, especially since he's the front person of your band and everything (unless you're a hang-around on the Yngwie Malmsteen 'donuts-on-tour' spectacle).
I'd say it's all depending on type of music. Take H.A.R.D. for instance, they're from Budapest, Hungary, they play a rather pink'n fluffy type of hardrock (aka melodic rock). Undoubtably the most important member in this case - the singer - as you need to have a certain kind of range to be able to work along the lines of the old masters of the genre. If you, like the singer of this particular band, have a minor problem with the lower register, do not, I repeat, do not try and 'talk' yourself out of trouble. Zoltan 'BZ' is a fine vocalist indeed, but, strangely enough, more comfortable on a slightly higher scale and the vocals are sort of flat during the 'talky' verse of the opening track, "Forever Hard". Not a biggie, you say, but it's the very first track of the CD and first impressions last.
They have recently received an invitation for collaboration from producer, Beau Hill (Winger, Europe, Ratt, Alice Cooper, etc). The band has re-recorded a few songs that has been remixed by Beau, so there is a three-song promo pack now avilable to meet international level. Well, I'm not sure if they're doing themselves any favours by sending out this version w/o the re-recorded stuff to writers and labels. However, there are some cracking tunes to be found.
For starters, "Stay" is the real winner of the bunch with its mega catchy refrain and infectious groove. Eat your heart out Tyketto. Ehem, kinda. Secondly, you'll also find Whitesnake and Deep Purple influences on several of the tracks. "Voices" is a tribute to all the great vocalists and the refrain simply recites the names of Gillan, Plant, Tyler, Mercury, Hagar, Stanley, Hughes, and Coverdale. Too bad the melody is straight from the latters songbook and more precisely, "Give Me All Your Love" (1987). Nontheless, H.A.R.D. show potential and I'm sure we'll hear a lot more from them in the future to come.
NICO'S ALCHEMY: "Fundamental Darkness" 5
Dirty Dog Records 2009
I was all excited at the prospect of an album by a brand new virtuoso rock guitarist, ready for Italian Nico Tamburella and his cohorts to give me something to grin about, something to get animated about. Unfortunately all “Fundamental Darkness” has given me is something to yawn about, even something to moan about. Whatever I decide to do, getting excited had been put firmly on the backburner until someone comes along who not only is a guitar virtuoso but can also write some decent bloody songs.
Let me say, to start with, that Nico is certainly not without talent in the guitar playing stakes. Four of the ten tracks on the album are instrumentals, and they’re all pretty darned good. “A Leap In Space”, for example, is a well balanced bluesy piece, whilst “Sleeping With The Devil” shows Nico’s talent for more straightforward rock guitar heroics. The problems start when the vocals come in, as these songs just don’t cut it. Vocalist Candido has a very Eighties style, a bit like Joe Lynn Turner, but he has none of Turner’s power and is not helped by being totally under produced. The song structures, so well balanced in the instrumentals, are not coherent and for the most part leave no lasting impression in your mind. By far the best tune is the fast, rocky “Fading Away”, but the production lets it down, and I feel it would be a better song with some better vocals thrown at it. Then again, we wouldn’t want to take anything away from the widdling guitar, would we?
Nico Tamburella may be a virtuoso, but it seems that he’s been built up higher than his talent would reach here. There’s plenty of great guitarists out there in better bands with better songs, and until Nico gets his act together he will remain, deservedly, a minority act attracting only those guitar freaks who want to sit and adore his every chord. For those of us that want decent songs to go with our shredding, we’ll wait for the next album with fingers crossed, because there’s every chance it will be much better.
PARALLEL OR NINETY DEGREES: "A Can Of Worms"
To be honest... I had not heard a single note from Parallel Or Ninety Degrees (PO90 from now on) before and yes, that's merely ONE band and not, eh, two, as their rather dodgy monicker may at first suggest. Lo and behold, they have recorded no less than five albums between the years of 1996 to 2001... and we've managed to ignore them all. Wicked... and they say ignorence is bliss after all.
We're opening up "A Can Of Worms" here as this is a double-disc release with the best of PO90, plus previously unreleased material. Like any proud progressive rock band would gladly point out, the four bonus tracks, that's yet another 38 minutes of music (ehhh... wankers). And that's including the original version of "Four Egos One War", which The Tangent recorded for their 2007 release, 'Not As Good As The Book'.
Indeed, PO90 was fronted by Andy Tillison of The Tangent and it's good, old, U.K. prog, heavily inspired by the old masters of Pink Floyd. Then again, you try and come up with a single prog-rock band (rock, not metal) that hasn't been inspired by 'The Dark Side Of The Moon'. They have/had a rock solid rhythm section, not to mention Floyd-ish like guitar solos, and ground shaking vocals. Tillison and Sam Baine worked together like a pair of well-oiled keyboard machines (huh?) through all of the songs.
The time changes and key movements are darn good at times, and the band members worked vigorously with each other, keeping the tempo and prog going. Do not expect PO90 to be as "commercial" (in lack of a more suited word) as The Tangent. RPWL and Pink Floyd fans should feel right at home.
SCANDINAVIAN METAL PRAISE: "S/T"
Scandinavian Metal Praise - various artists doing metal covers of the old gospel. It's worship from the word go and we're talking about hymns and psalms of new and old. Where else could you find such as Christian Metal recording than Finland? The land of millions (not quite, but...) lakes and possible as many hardrock and metal acts. Tell your local church band to jump on the bandwagon of rock praise albums as well, yes, no?
Not a printed word about who's who on this CD and it's difficult to find any info about the musicians. Not much to give from the packaging either as the band wish to remain anonymous. If the female vocalist gives off anything with this CD, it sure ain't silence though. With a power-like cadence, she comes across as bold as David versus Goliath. If I can be as bold in saying she sounds more like a Swedish (such as Anette of Nightwish fame) vocalist. Keeping in mind that Swedish is one of the two official languages in Finland.
The guitars are really crunching and they're using a similar amp sound as Bob Hartman did on the latest and last (?) Petra album, "Jekyll & Hyde". However, they are hardly any solos to be found and that's a shame. Some of the tunes, such as the trusty old, "When The Spirit Of The Lord", doesn't really work as metal and falls flat to the ground. Others, such as "Great In Power", "Praise Adonai", Worthy Is The Lamb", are really uplifting and do wonder for your body, mind, and soul. Nicely played keyboards add a melodic touch and you probably need to be open-minded to the religion thingy to fully appreciate this CD.
|REVIEWS ADDED 05 February, 2009
COLD TRUTH: "Do Watcha Do" 9
Here's the Cold Truth about 'Do Watcha Do'. You're in 'Bad Company', but the 'Thunder' will set you all 'Free'. Oh the irony, the irony, I really should be writing jokes for Saturday Night Live, you know. But sure, I guess I could pen down a note or two about these geezers while I'am waiting for the SNL phone call.
Cold Truth are actually one of my fave indie rock acts as of lately and should be treated with respect (or whatever). They're damn good at what they do and they certainly keep things nice and clean. Simplicity rules after all and they're keeping the flame burning for the rock steady groove of the above mentioned acts (that's: Bad Company, Thunder, Free - just in case you're having problem with the "irony").
I doubt you'll find a single note of 'originality' within these thirtheen tracks of classic rock. It's four chords, heads down, and hold on to your hats. Yup, Thane Shearon (vocals, guitar), Kurt Menck (guitar), Abe White (bass) and Matt Green (drums), are all about cheers, beers, and burning the midnight oil. The production is ok - but wouldn't hurt to be re-mixed. "Set Me Free" is the best new Thunder song since their debut, and "Peace With Me", wow, talk about instant classic. The song is easily as good as the best of Paul Rodgers' Bad Company.
Shearon is one of those singers who can lift a song to higher places with sheer emotion and attitude. Perhaps not the best technical shouter out there, but you can help to applaud the dude for at least trying to be the next Paul Rodgers. And he's not poor at all, mark my words. So what if Thunder decided to give it a rest? Simply sign up these guys to Frontiers Records instead and problem solved. Yeah, I know that some will merely think of this as typical 'bar' and 'pub' rock. But you should at least check out sound clips and judge for yourself.
VOTUM: "Time Must Have A Stop" 8
Votum was formed in 2003 and have performed regularly in clubs in Warsaw and other places in Poland. Really, why in the world would they... oh, it's their actual homeland, my bad, my bad. For the first minute of opener, "Me In The Dark", I thought this was just another progressive rock/metal band. After the first minute I started noticing a complexity and emotional expression, which had little to do with prog, rather than just atmospheric and very moody metal.
You can simplify things by saying, there's some fast progressive stuff with lots of rhythm changes, and slow stuff like the kind Type O'Negative or Veni Domine would do. "Time Must Have A Stop" is sort of a concept album focused on madman turning his vision into reality, a crippled soul who has found a way to release his urge. It's basically a dark story of obsessive craving to be loved of perverse affection that leaves the main characters both physically and emotionally scarred and leads into gloomy spaces of their mind. It's basically like any friday night down-town at the local hut, huh?
A very professional record I'd say. Very crafted musicians with clear ideas about how to perform their material at their very best. They have a strong vocalist in Maciej Kosinski (hardly any accent in this singing voice) and a keyboardist (Zbigniew Szatkowski) who knows how to keep things atmospheric and suitable to the whole sound picture of this perverted little story.
PHIL VINCENT: "Passion & Pain" 7
Phil Vincent Music 2009
yYou can’t, as the saying goes, keep a good man down. Phil Vincent may well be the living embodiment of this sentiment, returning time after time to chuck good albums at the public whether they want them or not.
When I get a new album from Phil it’s hard to get really excited, as he’s never really produced anything that’s made me jump up and down with excitement. That said, I’ve yet to listen to one of his albums and go ‘meh’. “Passion & Pain” is his eleventh solo release, and as usual he just about does everything apart from a few guest guitarists. It’s got some great tunes on it, very melodic and backed up with the sort of exceptional soloing that I’ve come to expect from Phil. Musically, he isn’t a million miles away from the likes of Harem Scarem, Dokken and Talisman, not afraid to inject a bit of grunt into the melodic framework.
When Phil Vincent is good, he makes some great, memorable melodic rock, but “Passion & Pain” also contains some less than stellar tunes. When he slows down it can seem like time is standing still. “Rumours” is six minutes plus that should really have been cut in half, and “One Chance” drags like a dog with no legs being taken for a ‘walk’. It’s like when Dio stopped giving us fast rockers and decided that plodding mediocrity was the best way to go.
Aside from the two slower tracks, however, “Passion & Pain” stands up well against Vincent’s other albums, with plenty of melodic hard rocking tunes to enjoy. It’s good to see this result of his own passion bringing the minimum of pain, and it’s never too late to discover this talented artist for yourself.
MAEVEN: "Maeven" 7
Maeven are four girls from Sheffield who released this album last year themselves, but it’s been picked up by TSM for a ‘proper’ push, which is why it’s found it’s way into my sweaty paws, and I’m glad it did, because Maeven may have something pretty special here.
To get your head around Maeven, picture The Ramones, add a bit more musical talent, throw in bits of Hanoi Rocks, Backyard Babies and Gren Day, then sprinkle with the attitude of McQueen. Oh, and their tits as well, because Maeven are a girly band. From the sleeve they all look pretty young, and pretty cool, and I can imagine many a young man getting a bit hot under the collar at a live show.
Musically, Maeven don’t exactly exude sophistication, belting out four minute wonders like “Queen Of Hearts” and “One Night In Hollywood” like a load of other bands out there. The thing is, Maeven seem to have that special something that allows them to stick their heads above the crowd and stand out. It’s not because they’re girls, it’s because they’re girls who write some bloody good kick ass rock and roll music, dripping with sleaze and attitude. If you want some good old straightforward sleazy punk, then this is a good place to start.
VISION DIVINE: "9 Degrees West Of The Moon" 6
Great intro - check, wicked keyboards - check, massive female choir - check, marvelous guitar riffing - check. Allright, we're all set for some serious headbanging and an overall fun music experience. Excellent... what the f**k... who let the cat in behind the microphone???
Don't get me wrong, the cat can sing, but the vocals are hi-hi-hi higher range and quite annoying on a couple of the tracks (such as the opener due to the singers heavy accent). Vision Divine are a melodic metal band, flowing through the same stylistic style and dimension as a truck-load of other acts in the 'german' field of things. We certainly did/do enjoy our early Helloween albums and this platter contains nothing that hasn't been done before. Not necessarily a bad thing, especially since we're dealing with a tight unit of musicians here.
This well crafted CD contains eleven tracks of traditional melodic "speed" metal (the german style), wailing solos, football choirs, double-bass drumming, and pretty much everything else that goes along with lederhosen and Yngwie metal. The melodies may seem uncannily familiar at times and fans of Freedom Call and Rhapsody should feel right at home (the latter mostly due to the vocals of Fabio Lione).
But I dunno, they're almost too melodic to be a real 'metal' act, and yet too "heavy" for the real soft rocker fans. Sticky, icky, power ballads, are mixed with 'true metal' tunes and it's mostly a weird rollercoaster ride of emotional outbursts. Are we metal or are we wimps? Are we men or people wearing tight spandex? Are we using the word 'are' a little too much lately? Well... are we? probably, yes, but at least we are aware of our problem. Not quite as sure when it comes to Vision Divine and their music. Nice, but no cigar... and they're at least a lot better than Rhapsody.
MAD MAX: "Here We Are" 6
A Minor Records 2008
Mad Max are celebrating their 25th anniversary with this album, a unique collection of songs. Instead of releasing a "Best Of" or a live album, the band approached the anniversary album idea a bit differently. The asked their friends in the "biz" to co-write with them, in order to put together something special. 13 of their friends provided bits and pieces of songs, of which Michael Voss and Jürgen Breforth carved out the songs for this album. An interesting idea, but not a complete success.
The pros first: the list of co-writers is impressive, and the album doesn't sound one-dimensional. The idea is an original one, and probably draws some extra attention to the album. A good move marketing-wise.
The cons: the album sounds like a covers album, with too many styles and not enough Mad Max. Some of the songs are frankly quite sub-standard, as if the co-writer has just dug out some second rate riffs and melodies for them. I'm quite sure that Voss & Breforth could've come up with better songs themselves.
The tracks on which the "interactive songwriting" system works include the opening track "Caravan", co-written by Joe Lynn Turner, the modern-rock sounding title track (co-written by jan Loechel) and the rather excellent "Mad Gone Blind", co-written by Pink Cream 69's David Readman. The latter is actually a song about the school shootings here in Finland last year. The intro's "newsflash" mentions that the shootings took place "outside Helsinki" - well yeah, some 300 kilometres from Helsinki! The collaborations with Michael Schenker and Bernie Tormé are also quite good.
Don Airey's "Where The Winds Blow" is a stylish bluesy rocker, but sounds more like The Law or Chris Rea than Mad Max, while "Down To Babylon", co-written by Jeff Scott Soto, is a groovy rocker á la Talisman but with a forgettable chorus. The Ox Fox-co-write "Love Walks Lonely" is one of the worst offenders here, a dull, plodding track with a boring chorus. "Stop One Minute" is a lightweight pop rocker with additional vocals from Pearl, one of the band's labelmates. This song, co-written by Ken Tamplin, could probably be re-arranged into a pop-country track quite easily...
The collaboration with Axel Rudi Pell starts out with a solid riff and driving beat, but again, the chorus is just way too average. The weirdest moment of the album is Wolf Hoffman's "All Of My Heart", which is a pure country ballad... and do I hear Voss attempting to do that "country yelp"? Hopefully this country influnce isn't creeping into the band's sound - hands off the banjos and lay down the stetsons!
Next... "Keep You Alive" and "Hell On Heels"... the first one has its' moments but the chorus just annoys me, and the latter is a traditional "classic rock" track we've all hear a million times before. The album is closed with the only "Voss-original" of the album, an athmospheric ballad "Say Goodbye To Hollywood", which doesn't really grab me but still rates as one of the better songs here.
Having transformed into a Christian Rock band a few years ago, Mad Max aren't strangers to surpising career moves. Interestingly enough, the promo material for this album doesn't mention the Christian thing at all, although it's evident in some of the lyrics. Whether their next album has a Christian theme or not isn't that big a deal, I just hope that they come up with a selection of songs much stronger than this set. A boxed set of the hard-to-find 80'ies releases with a bonus disc of rarities and the best ones of these new songs might've been a better tribute to the band's long career.
DAEDALUS: "The Never Ending Illusion" 6
Do you recall 'The Never Ending Story' by Limahl??? Well... quickly try and erase that particular picture out of your head as Daedalus' periphrastical painting will hardly remind you of kajagoogoo. "The Never Ending Illusion" [blimey, stop singing the limahl tune over these lyrics already, and someone please remove the fuzzy white dragon from the video/film out of my frame picture, thanks] is another bloody 'concept' story where each of the ten tracks deals with a different way of being concerned with the dualism between reality and dream/illusion.
Yes, yes, thank you very much. Yet another fascinating story that needs some serious mind tweaking and imagination beyond belief. For example, "A Journey To Myself", and its lyrics will need no further explanation and I quote: "I'm trying to fight back the sleep, I see my face inside the glass. The image blends with my remembrance, sudden as a wave the dark wall starts to fade and lets me wander through my past. Hidden inside my mind it's me I have to find", end quote. Yes, yes, of course it's bloody you... and what's wrong with Torquey anyhow?? take a stroll down the pier and back home again.
They're getting lost in their self-indulging nonsense at times and even though they're all great musicians, it seems like they've forget all about the basic meaning of music. It's meant to work as a brief escape from your daily struggle and not as yet another place where you'd like to kick your neighbour in the nuts. Their peculiar style draws similarities to other acts of the prog-rock genre. However, "The Never Ending Illusion" shows promising tendencies, but not more than that, mainly because of their lack of coming up with some truly interesting refrains and/or choruses. Some great structure and guitar/keyboards passages doesn't really make up for all the boring melodies.
Final verdict: great musicians, great sounding record (Roland Grapow of Helloween fame mixed it). Songwriting improvement and more focus on the actual tunes would however do the trick next time, thanks.
NASHVILLE PUSSY: "From Hell To Texas" 5
Time for a bit of psychobilly southern rock now, as Nashville Pussy roll out another album full of clichés that won’t win any new fans but should keep the existing ones happy. In case you weren’t aware of them, Nashville Pussy are your atypical Texan booze n’ blooze merchants, throwing catchy riffs and hardcore lyrics all over the place without ever doing anything to set themselves apart from the herd.
It’s been three years since the last album, though I doubt that many people have lost sleep waiting for the arrival of “From Hell To Texas”. At a basic level, it’s not too bad, with twelve tracks of solid, southern rock that you could hear in any one of a hundred bars across Texas, most likely the sort of bars with sawdust instead of carpet and ‘humorous’ bathroom signs. The song titles will give you an idea of the level that Nashville Pussy operate at, with “Drink Driving Man”, “I’m So High”, “Dead men Can’t Get Drunk” and “Pray For The Devil” telling you all you need to know.
get the feeling that Nashville Pussy are more a live band than a studio one, with drinking, fighting and fucking parties all over the place. “From Hell To Texas” isn’t a bad album, but it’s not exactly a good one either, straddling the fence with a six gun down it’s pants and two middle finders raised. I know darned well that I’m not going to be listening to it again, because it thinks it’s much more fun and badass than it actually is, but if you own some NP albums and love ‘em to bits you’ll probably get a kick out of it.
CORNERSTONE: "Head Over Heels" 5
This particular Cornerstone will hardly even shake your foundation... if you're merely into hardrock and things that goes b-o-o-m in the night. In fact, the monicker could possible be the one and only thing they have in common with Doogie White of Rainbow fame. These lads and lassies (two of each) are from Austria and they play a ecliptic mix of Pop, alternative, and soft rock.
They have a strong and charming vocalist in Anja Schirmer, who(m) seems to be into Chrissy Hyde and The Pretenders as she works in a similar style and approach. However, it could just be a strange coincidence of course, what do I know. They are clearly another one of those frustrating outfits who are undoubtedly talanted but are still desperately searching for the right material. I frankly do not find their songs all that interesting and they could need a extra pair of hands to help them along with their writing.
They will most certainly find gigs and places to play with the material they have today. However, like any honest person would say, give me more focus, stronger hooks, and I'll give you the world (minus the 95% of the cash which the record company will grab of course).
BALANCE: "Equilibrium" 5
Straight to the point - the voice is gone, alas, the magic is gone. Balance were mostly about Peppy's out-of-ordinary vocals and those marvelous soft-soft harmonies. Sure, the bald avenger aka the unmasked guitarist, Bob Kulick (Meat Loaf), certainly had sumthin' to do with their overall sound picture as well. However, Castro was the main attraction and he's merely half the vocalist of his heydays and prime.
It's a shame really as the songs aren't too shabby. Catchy, poppy, hardly as good as the first two albums, but not poorly whatsoever. Soaring guitarwork by Kulick and nicely played keyboards by Doug Katsaros. The latter is unfortunately not as much at the front of the soundpicture as one could wish at times. The production on the other hand is quite disasterous in comparsion to their previous efforts (and the standard of modern technology really). Very muddy and like it's still waiting to be mixed properly really.
Final verdict: sure, you can still sing 'Heavy Metal' with a voice like that, not a problem whatsoever, but poppy, hi-pitched AOR? I don't think so. Well, at least not without some serious tweaking afterwards in the studio by a decent producer. Way too off-balance for my liking and yours too, no doubt. In for the count? - down for the count...
TAKARA: "Invitation To Forever" 4
'Featuring Jeff Scott Soto on backing vocals' - Arggghhh!!!! what's the point really? Bad move if you ask me, since it'll only remind us further on how superior the old singer was in comparison to their new frontman, Gus Monsanto (Adagio, Revolution Renaissance, etc). Iron Maiden never invited Bruce to sing back-up on their Blaze records, did they? For a damn good reason too, I'd say.
There's no real bangers to pep things up either. Just pure blandness and ten seconds moments of the work of a sheer genius in between. Final Verdict: this particular piece of pie is merely half-baked and could need another half hour in the owen..
CONFUSED 5: "Out Of Confusion" 4
Have we been feeling confused lately? Blimey, we are not actually going to perform that tune, are we? Oh, yes we are (crap, there's no escape from the axxis of evil, is there?). Okie-dokie, let's all get inside the old time machine and travel right back to the era of procol and harum.
Yep, these lads are more or less a poor man's version of the above mentioned 'PH' band. I'm not even sure why the info-sheet is filled of references to seventies stadium rock and acts like Foreigner, Styx, Deep Purple and REO Speedwagon!!!??? The person who wrote it must have a completely different view from his ivory tower than the rest of us.
I could possible pick up a little BJH (that's Barclay James Harvest) and with a bit of imagination, a hint of early Lucifer's Friend, but we're really reaching and stretching for things here. Poor man's Procol Harum, no doubt, and very stale and boring material.
|REVIEWS ADDED 27 January, 2009
PLACE VENDOME: "Streets Of Fire" 9
If the first signs are anything to go by, 2009 is shaping up to be a good year for AOR. It isn't even February, yet "Streets Of Fire" is already the third excellent AOR album I've encountered this year (Bad Habit and Places Of Power being the other two). Not too bad!
The first Place Vendome album a couple of years ago was a decent platter, but I'd say that this is far better. The idea of having ex-Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske singing AOR might sound a bit weird, but that's what makes this a special album - an unlikely combination that works like a charm! Add a selection of superbly crafted melodic rock songs, the musicianship of Pink Cream 69 members and a flawless production by Dennis Ward to that, and you've got a winner.
The majestic title track opens the album, followed by the ultra-melodic "My Guardian Angel", the track that was chosen to be the first video'ed one (see link below). "Completely Breathless" has a bit of a modern pop/rock vibe, and it showcases the incredible range of Mr. Kiske. A highly melodic track that sounds like a potential crossover radio hit. Next up we've got a more traditional AOR track called "Follow Me" with a hook that'll have you... well, hooked probably. "Set Me Free" is a less instant track and to be honest, after a dozen plays or so, it's yet to leave it's mark on me.
The bouncy, Journeyesque "Believer" contains some rather cool axework and a familiar sounding hook, while "Valerie" sounds like Michael Kiske fronting Toto, if you can imagine that! "A Scene In Replay" is one of my favourite tracks, a stunning display of glorious melodies and a killer chorus. The pre-chorus reminds me of Abba, but that's not a bad thing at all - Andersson and Ulvaeus were masters of melody.
"Changes" is another pure AOR track, reminding me strongly of Valentine's first album. Pure AOR is something that could be said of "Surrender Your Soul", another very Journey-like track ("Higher Place" anyone?). The album's most hard-edged track is probably "Dancer", a superb slice of melodic, metallic AOR. As it is stated in the Golden Book Of AOR Glory, "An AOR album is to be closed with a dramatic ballad", a track that can be described as such closes the album. "I'd Die For You" isn't a Bon Jovi cover but a delicate ballad with a surprising foray into Pomp territory in the end.
By taking a look at the songwriting credits, it's interesting to notice that Leverage's Torsti Spoof has written a third of the album. Although he has penned a track or two for Leverage, I didn't have any idea that he is a very capable AOR songwriter. Hopefully we'll get to hear more of his stuff in the future. Ronny Milianowicz might be known more as a metal writer (Primal Fear, Saint Deamon etc), but on this album, he proves that he can create AOR masterpieces as well.
DORO: "Fear No Evil" 8
AFM Records 2009
My God, it doesn’t seem like 25 years since Doro Pesch first joined Warlock and proceeded to knock everyone’s preconceptions of what a female vocalist should be right out of the park. Petite and pretty, Doro revealed that underneath the sweet looking exterior was a powerhouse vocalist with a passion for heavy metal that remains strong to this day. Legal shenannigans took the Warlock name away, but the Doro name has served her and the band well for far more years now, with this album a long overdue follow up to 2006’s “Warrior Soul”.
Not for the first time, and hopefully not the last, Doro and co have basically thrown up an album for anybody that likes heavy metal. It isn’t power metal, melodic metal or any of those other sub genres. Like her heroes Judas Priest, Doro is a metal singer, and that means she is at her best singing metal songs. “Fear No Evil” features 11 tracks that deliver big riffs, pounding bass and drums along with the sort of melodies that first attracted you (and me) to metal in the first place.
Unsurprisingly there’s no attempt here to stray away from cliché, with the album struggling to come up with any fresh ideas. Nonetheless it’s full of well written and well played metal that invites shaggy haired people to bang their heads and wave their fists. Sometimes it’s okay to just stand up and do what you enjoy, and Doro’s enjoyment of her music has never been in doubt. Vocally, she’s as good as ever, particularly on the excellent album opener “Night of The Warlock” and the German language track “Herzblut”.
Doro fans will certainly not be disappointed by this album, as it delivers exactly what they want, with Doro showing no signs of slowing down after 25 metal years. The production is crisp and clear, the band handle everything with aplomb, and the whole thing leaps out at you like a mad hamster with a machete. Whilst you’re mulling over that image, I’m going to listen to it again, because sometimes I just want to listen to heavy metal with no pretension.
HEAVEN'S BASEMENT: "EP"
VJ Records 2009
It’s taken a while for Heaven’s Basement to release product, and this EP has been put together to satiate the slavering hordes that gravitate around the band after each gig. The band seem to have new songs written every week, and they’ve done a good job in picking six of the best for their first ever release.
It seems like I have been writing about this band every other week, either reviewing one of their many gigs or throwing their name into someone else’s review as a point of comparison. Well, there may be several cool bands out there who have a sprinkling of the HB magic, but believe me when I say there’s no one out there who comes close to them in terms of pure energy and musical talent.
The highlight is, unsurprisingly, the superb “Executioners Day”, an immensely catchy, full on rock slammer that combines melody with massive riffs and a killer guitar solo. It’s a perfect signature tune for the band and hopefully will remain a live favourite for a while to come. That’s not to say the other songs are left behind, as it’s hard to ignore the likes of “Tear Your Heart Out” or “Reign On My Parade”. All in all, there’s six excellent songs on offer here, based around solid blues ideas and allowed to flourish. Heaven’s Basement have a unique sound thanks to some original song writing and a magical chemistry within the band.
This is easily the best EP I have come across in a few years, showcasing a band that are content to wait awhile before taking on the rock world. You really won’t regret taking a trip to Heaven’s Basement, because I’ll see you there and we’ll all have a hell of a time.
VENGEANCE: "Soul Collector" 8
The 25th anniversary album of these Dutch rockers is pretty much an "all in" one. It features songs from Arjen Lucassen, Matt Sinner, Angel Schleifer, as well as Michael Voss of Casanova/Mad Max who was also responsible for the production. The pedigree of the musicians is flawless and the list of contributors is more than promising for sure. Yet the album turned out to be a bit too eclectic for my taste.
It starts out with "Cross in the Rain", a heavy rock stomper, not bad but nothing fancy. The following "Wait Until the Sun Goes Down" is a lot more promising with its catchy refrain, one of the best tracks of the album. And after that comes the title track which… ahem… which has a main riff that bears undeniable similarities to [read: is a brutal rip-off of] Megadeth's "Symphony of Destruction". The drum and bass lines don't help either, as they are almost identical to the Megadeth tune. Unbelievable. The cool refrain lines can't save the day. Then there's a track called "Samurai" that would not sound out of place on any Manowar album and its lyrics are almost as bad any Manowar song. And just when I almost gave up on the album things took a turn for the better: "What the Hell" is a damn good track in the vein of classic melodic rock, sounds as good as any Casanova tune from "Casanova" or "One Night Stand".
"Myspace Freak" has cool lyrics but musically
failed to grab me, cool shout-out refrain though. The following "I Never Felt
That Way Before" got me excited again, a very well-written tune, another
highlight of the album with a sticky refrain. Then we get some more midtempo
rock ("Dance"), some simple rock n' roll ("Rock n' Roll Band" that will
definitely be a concert favorite), more midtempo rockers ("So Many Times") that
grab you by their excellent production and damn thick sound and a catchy
acoustic ballad ("Lean On Me") closes the album which has a bit too "German"
beer metal ballad refrain to my taste (you know when towards the end of the gig
semi-drunk guys with big bellies lean on each other left then right with their
beer mugs raised high). If I get past the inconsistency factor and the Megadeth
thing and focus on the different songwriting input and the bombastic overall
sound I have to say this one is a really good album.
F5: "The Reckoning" 8
F5 strated back in 2003 and their debut album "A Drug For All Seasons" came out in 2005(for a review see our archives). THis second CD sounds almost the same as their great debut which means: a lot of guitar hooks, riffs, melodies and short solos, tight metal staccatto tempos and sometimes even trashy musical elements. The new drummer Jimmy DeGrasso does an excellent job and the rhythm section - together with bassplayer David Ellefson - is even more tighter with his drumming.
The best tracks are without any doubt: Love Is Dead(trashy power metal), Wake Up (great guitar solos) and I Am
The Taker, rather melodic trashy. The guitars truly dominate on this impressive metal album, sadly this cd is only 41 minutes
long; too short in fact. The music really reminds me of a notorious band called Damn The Machine.
Victor GANN: "The Devil's Been Busy" 8
When you read in a guitarist's bio that he's a G.I.T. graduate you expect quality, when he lists Satch among his main influence you expect digestibility, and when you learn that he uses almost the same equipment you do you rise your eyebrows and get very curious. This is exactly what happened to me with Victor Gann's "The Devil's Been Busy".
It was quite obvious that there won't be any technical problems here, the sound quality is also very good for an independent release so the only question was the songwriting. Well, the album does not lack on that part either. The songs are easy to digest, melodies are memorable, and fretboard acrobatics do not overshadow songwriting. The Satriani influence is obvious from the first track of the album and I mean the "Extremist"-era Satch, not the high-tech space freak one of the 21st century. Actually "A.R.O." sounds a lot like a poor man's "Satch Boogie".
Victor is one of the few instrumental guitarists
who believes simplicity is sometimes more entertaining than complexity and less
can be a lot more sometimes. Rightfully so. Tracks like "Shannon and Victoria"
or "Lullaby For Victoria" prove that well. My personal favorites were still the
ones with various guitar sounds and a big bunch of memorable melodies like
"Beyond the Sun" or the soulful "A Walk with God". All in all this is a very
strong independent effort, a mature album with obvious influences but enough
originality and songwriting skills not having to rely on flashy technicalities
only. Recommended indeed.
VOODOO JOHNSON: "Into The Red EP"
VJ Records 2009
"Voodoo Johnson have some great songs” - so says Kevin Shirley, a man who should know, having produced the likes of Aerosmith, Zep and Maiden. Of course, it’s not the most enthusiastic quote ever printed, but it’s strangely accurate. You see, Voodoo Johnson do have some great songs, and sometimes that’s all you want.
“Into the Red” is the Birmingham five piece’s second EP, although the first that I’ve heard. There’s a sense here that a lot of effort has been put into it, with each of the five tracks showing a band that knows what they’re about. Musically, they’re a cunning fusion of Aerosmith, The Black Crowes, Guns n Roses and the likes of Heaven’s Basement (with whom they really should tour). It’s ballsy, bluesy and very well done, with the maddest thing being that they’re not actually signed. Despite this, they seem to be creating more buzz than a wasp in a matchbox and it’s not hard to see why.
Voodoo Johnson are a bandwagon that’s just waiting to be jumped on, and I think I’m going to enjoy the ride.
EMERGENCY GATE: "Rewake" 4
This album is NOT my cup of tea as the songs are all very speedy, trashy and loud. But my main criticism is that almost all of the songs sound a like and that is due to the raw, sometimes grunty, vocals of newcomer Matthias Kupka. In my opinion is it true, boring German trash metal and the fact that they will go on tour with such notorious bands like Kreator, Caliban and Eluveitie says it all.
iRonica: "Dive" single
iRonica released a decent debut album in 2007, but it didn't have that much of an impact on the scene. Their label is showing respectable faith in them though, and they're about to release a new album later this year. What's more, they've gotten the much-in-demand producer Hiili Hiilesmaa to produce the said album.
"Dive" is the first single, a hard hitting number with cool keyboards and a driving beat. The chorus doesn't have the impact to make this an instant hit I'm afraid, but all in all, a good song. On the single you'll find the normal album version of the song, as well as a single edit and an acoustic version.
Jeff Scott SOTO: "Luxury Package Reissues"
Now that Jeff Scott Soto is in the spotlight again with a new album to be released, Frontiers Records have decided to reissue his previous two albums as "Luxury Package Reissues", with several bonustracks on both discs. We'll take a look at the bonus tracks, but here's a little reminder of my original reviews of the albums:
"Prism": "The one and only Jeff Scott Soto, one of the most productive melodic rock vocalists of all time, has decided to go for it alone this time. All songs (except one cover) have been written and produced by Mr. Soto himself, and what's more, he has also played keys and bass on this album. And you know what? This album just as good or actually better than most of the albums JSS has been involved with..."
"Lost In The Translation":"The new JSS platter in a nutshell...melodic rockers "High Time" and "Find My Way" raise above as the highlights, with the two ballads and "Drowning" and "Believe In Me" following close behind. Out of the groovy, slightly funky tracks my vote would go for the title track. Compared to "Prism" this album works better as a whole, even though the best tracks of that album may have been just a little bit better than the highlights of this one..."
The additional tracks on "Prism" seem to be stuff that's been available in some format or other. The soul ballad "Good Love" was on some editions of "Prism" I believe, not on my promo copy though. It's a departure of the album's sound, a vintage sounding 60'ies soul track, showing off Jeff's musical roots. The curiously titled "2012" was the bonustrack on the Japanese edition of "The Essential Ballads", and while it's nice enough, it's hardly essential. "Send Her My Love" is of course the Journey classic, proving that JSS could do a decent job as a frontman for that band. Oh wait...he's been there, done that! "Again 2 B Found" and "Stand Up" are both culled from "Gods live", while "4 U" shows that JSS can sing horrendous, whiny falsetto r'n'b like the best of 'em, even though I'd rather he didn't...
The bonustracks on "LITT" offer more added value than the ones on "Prism". "Dulce Lady" was featured on some versions, not on my promo though, and it's a decent rocker, as is the original Japanese bonus track "Turned The Page". "As I Do 2 U", "This Ain't The Love" and "Lonely Shade Of Blue" were featured on the "Essential Ballads", but the acoustic live version of "Soul Divine" is apparently previously unreleased.
In a nutshell, if you don't have the albums, these editions are worth picking up, but if you already have the originals, it's up 2 U (JSS-lingo!) whether you need them for the additional unreleased track or two.
|REVIEWS ADDED 17 January, 2009
HB: "Piikki Lihassa" 8
Bullroser Records 2008
Finnish Christian Metal act HB made some noise last year with "Frozen Inside", their first english-sung album. Even our very own Alan Holloway was quite impressed and wrote that their "symphonic metal songs show real songwriting talent". In November they released their latest album "Piikki Lihassa", which sees them going back to their native language. Whether it will be released with english lyrics I do not know, but considering the quality of the songs, that wouldn't be a bad move.
Even compared to other Christian bands, HB's lyrics are more upfront and biblical. That might earn them the respect of some hardcore Christian fans, but it won't make it any easier for them to attract casual metal fans to check out their music. That might not be their mission, but I think it's a bit of a shame, because musically the band is starting to reach the very highest level of the genre.
The songs range from powerful, thunderous metal tracks to very delicate and sensitive ballads, but the lyrics never stray away from biblical themes. The weirdest song has to be "Sana", sung by songwriter/keyboard player Antti Niskala. It is lyrically almost like a "cast of characters" of the Bible! It's probably the one song I like the least because it's not that interesting musically. The last 30 seconds or so are quite hilarious though.
The album's highlights for me are the hard-hitting "Minä Olen", the melodic yet heavy titletrack and "Ilo Herrassa", to name a few. The latter two showcase the impressive lower range of vocalist Johanna Aaltonen, who otherwise sings in a higher register. What else? Well, the production is terrific and the arrangements are of the highest calibre. I especially liked the choirs and the orchestration. At times the full-on bible lessons of the lyrics tend to be a bit overwhelming and I can't relate to them, but overall this is a very good album. If you're into Nightwish and Within Temptation, look into this!
BURNING POINT: "Empyre" 8
When reading the title with this spelling I automatically associated Queensryche yet knew this Finnish band would have had to take a huge turn from their previous stuff to be anything like the guys from Seattle. Well, they didn't. They still play melodic heavy metal the VERY European way. Depending on your taste this may as well be both their most positive or most negative characteristic.
After countless member-changes and legal problems the band finally released a full-length album with decent production. A metal version of the Godfather movie theme opens the album; it's funny but a bit reminds me of my high-school bands' dead-end streets. Anyway it quickly turns into the title track that sets the pace both tempo-wise and musically. You get 46 minutes of uptempo metal crush. What makes Burning Point better then the majority of their league is the fresh guitar playing by Pete Ahonen and Pekka Kolivuori and Jussi Ontero's tricky drum themes. I have to mention the other part of the rhythm section: Jukka Jokikokko, man that's the greatest rock n' roll name ever, fuck Johnny Cash or Blackie Lawless.
However I'm rather dissatisfied with Pete's
vocals, the complexity of the music calls out for a wider vocal range. He was
well aware of his range and did not push it beyond its limits therefore he is
on-key and confident throughout the entire album (and I respect that a great
deal) but a vocalist with a wider ranger could have brought a lot more out of
this song-material. All in all there are no mistakes or miscues here, the band
delivered a solid melodic metal album, slightly better than the majority of the
genre but nothing really extraordinary or outstanding. Recommended indeed.
HERMAN FRANK: "Loyal To None" 7
I was hoping for Herman Frank's first solo album to be a melodic, guitar oriented one but it turned out to be your average German heavy metal with stomping rhythms, brain-destroying simple metal riffs and brutally shouting vocals. I was hoping for memorable melodies and catchy hooks but I got a very aggressive vocal approach and absolutely no hooks to remember. The whole thing is more about brutality than memorability.
The production is unbelievably good but one would expect that from a producer-studio owner anyway, the sound is very balanced, thick, all instruments crawl into your face. The musicians can obviously all play, they are seasoned veterans, so I guess the problem boils down to the song material and Jiotis Parachidis' (the throat of the last Victory album) vocal tracks. They are just very average hence the 7/10 points rating. I can't even name any highlights or fillers of the album, as even after close to a dozen spins I can't really remember any of the songs well enough.
I may be missing a clue here but the album cover
mentions Stefan Kaufmann (Helloween/Krokus) while the promo flyer says Stefan
Schwarzmann (Running Wild/UDO) on drums. Neither the label's nor Herman's
website carries any info on the musicians so I'm stuck. Not being a big German
metal expert the two guys may as well be the same but I doubt… Production-wise
it's an album to show everyone "how to", songwriting-wise it's the typical "how
not to" one. The rest is up to you.
TALL STORIES: "Skyscraper" 5
The first Tall Stories album back in 1991 was something different than all the dozens of hard rock releases of its' era. The band's AOR sound had a bit of an eclectic, alternative vibe, which made it fresh and exciting. Some hailed it as the best thing since sliced bread, but while I wouldn't go that far, I have to say that the album still sounds quite fresh.
Almost 18 years have passed since the first album and a lot of things have happened. Vocalist Steve Augeri had a brief fling with Tyketto, until making it to the big league as Steve Perry's replacement in Journey. A couple of years ago he suffered severe vocal problems, and that marked the end of his era in the band. As his health improved, Augeri and the rest of the Stories decided that their story isn't over, and started to work on a new album.
It certainly is a pleasure to hear Augeri again, he has a fine voice and he seems to have overcome his problems. But... where the first album was AOR with alternative overtones, Tall Stories '09 is an opposite of that - alternative, modern rock with AOR touches. Perhaps Augeri wants to distance himself from the classic AOR sounds of his former band, as some of these songs have more in common with Stone Temple Pilots or U2 than Journey. In a way it's understandable, but I can't pretend to like it.
I've played this album quite a few times, and everytime I've noticed that around track seven or eight I realize that none of the melodies have left an impression. That's not a sign of a good album, especially when the situation doesn't improve much with the remaining few songs. Okay, the album's standout track "Stay" is among them, but that's about it.
I was expecting a "different" album, but hoping for a melodic and catchy one at the same time. Unfortunately that wasn't in the cards, and "Skyscraper" has to be classified as a disappointment. I'm sure that it'll do reasonably well on the strength of the band's cult status and Augeri's pedigree, but I don't think that it'll be rated as one of the better albums of 2009 by many.
|REVIEWS ADDED 9 January, 2009
BAD HABIT: "Above And Beyond" 9
AOR Heaven 2009
After their heavier previous album "Hearsay" (2005), Swedish rockers Bad Habit promised to return to the more melodic style of their earlier material. The "we're going back to the roots with the next album"-song has been heard so many times before and unsually the results have been far from satisfying, bands merely going through the motions with half-hearted attempts to capture their former glory. But... NOT SO with "Above And Beyond"! What you'll get is an album from a focused band, who succeeds in both sounding contemporary AND going back to their roots. While "Hearsay" sounded great and modern, the band's melodic sensibilities were a bit lost on the album. No such worries here, Hal Marabel has written a strong selection of songs with loads of melody and some big, shiny, dangerously sharp hooks. The production (by Jonas Reingold) is flawless, and the same goes for the performances. Especially vocalist Bax Fehling does a great job - his voice might not be to everyone's liking, but one can't argue about its' unmistakeable identity. He doesn't sound like anyone else but himself, and that's quite a feat these days.
The album gets a fine start with some of the strongest songs early in the tracklisting. "I Don't Want You" has already been released as video, and it's strong opener that showcases what this album is all about - perfectly crafted melodic rock with big choruses. "Just A Heartbeat Away" is another favourite of mine, kicking off with a heavy riff, yet dripping with melody and boasting a true "pop hit chorus" that would take this song to the top of the charts if recorded by some major label pop sensation. The more uptempo "I Don't Want To Say Goodbye" is another winner and another potential hit.
"Let Me Be The One" is an okay balladic track, but I prefer the breezy "A Lot To Learn" and "I Believe", which is another highly melodic track yet driven by a monster riff. The title track brings back memories of the first full-length Bad Habit album "After Hours", as it has the same kind of an Autograph-like vibe as some of the tracks on that album. And so it goes on... "My Confession" and "Let Me Tell You" are both good uptempo songs, while "Surrender" is a cool, darker track.
The next two tracks aren't bad by any means, but I find them to be the weakest ones on the album. "Calling Your Name" is very Journeyesque track with a chorus that reminds me a bit too much of "Send Her My Love", while "Never Gonna Give You Up" is pleasant enough, but somewhat bland. The last track "I Need Someone" ends the album on a positive note, although the chorus sounds very familiar again... possibly it's similar to one of the bands' older songs.
If there's something to criticize, it would be the band's song titles and lyrics, which rely on the familiar AOR vocabulary. I think that each one of these songtitles has been used at least once before. Even the band themselves have a song called "Need Somebody", yet they felt that "I Need Someone" isn't too bad a title...
SAXON: "Into The Labyrinth" 9SPV/Steamhammer 2009
Review by Alan Holloway,
8th Januaty 2009
It’s now thirty years since Saxon broke on to the NWOBHM scene with their debut, self titled album. “Into The Labyrinth” is studio album number 18, incredibly, and it should come as no surprise that Saxon show no signs of either getting old or slowing down.
For the last ten years or so, Saxon have been reinventing themselves from a classic heavy rock band into a mighty metal machine, and this has gone down well, especially in metal mad Europe. They moved away from the likes of “Wheels Of Steel”, coming back with “Metalhead” and “Lionheart”, full blooded metal screamers that still contained the core element of the band we all loved. With the new album, the band have taken the interesting step of melding the two styles, creating an album that will delight fans both new and old.
For an insight into what’s making Saxon tick these days, look no further than the single “Live To Rock”, a full blooded, simple ode to all things ROCK with a hook to die for. This and tracks like the melodic yet heavy “Come Rock Of Ages” certainly hearken back to the Saxon of old, and not in a bad way. There’s also the cracking full tilt stormer “Demon Sweeney Todd”, which takes 21st century Saxon and injects a slice of “Motorcycle Man” for good measure. There’s even a shot at the blues in “Slow Lane Blues”, about being nicked for speeding, which ends up as a decent song that to be honest isn’t all that bluesy.
“Into The Labyrinth” is possibly the most well rounded Saxon album for twenty years, delivering a solid shot of liquid metal and rock straight into the veins. Biff Byford and co are a well oiled machine that does just what you want it to, yet each album seems fresh and innovative. Iron Maiden may have the stadium gigs, but Saxon have the grit and talent that defined a genre and continues to do so.
PLACES OF POWER: "Now Is The Hour" 9
Places Of Power is a union of two talented melodic rock artists. Bruce Turgon is a superb songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who is most known for his work with Lou Gramm, while Phil Bardowell has sung with Magdalen and Unruly Child. They both released fine solo albums on Frontiers label back in 2005, but Places Of Power tops them both. While Turgon is a good singer as his solo album proves, his songs benefit of the truly great vocals of Phil Bardowell, who should establish himself as one of the top AOR vocalists of today with this album. It really was a stroke of genius from Frontiers' Serafino Perugino to dream up this combination!
The songs on "Now Is The Hour" carry the trademarks of Turgon's writing - he tends to favour athmospheric, dark and intense melodies. This album is chock full of those, and with Bardowell's very Gramm-like vocals, there's no escaping the comparisons to Turgon's previous work. I can't help but think that some of these songs would have been perfect for Foreigner or Shadow King. That should be a recommendation in itself.
The highlights for me include the lead-off track "In Your Wildest Dream" with its' brilliant, pulsating keyboards and a killer hook, the catchy and keyboard-driven "Secrets" and the balladic "Light Of My World" which reminds me a lot of Foreigner's ballads on the "Mr. Moonlight" album. Actually, apart from a two or three slightly less impressive tracks, the whole album is excellent. I especially enjoy the keyboard work, which is quite imaginative. Turgon, who is responsible for all the instruments except for the solo guitar (played by Scott McKinstry), has obviously taken a lot of time to perfect the arrangements and the production, and Bardowell's vocal performance gives the album that extra spark. Yes, I believe we have a Top 10 of 2009 contender here, although we've only just said farewell to 2008...
CORONATUS: "Porta Obscura" 9
Massacre Records 2008
You have to wonder if Nightwish had any idea of how big a can of worms they opened by becoming a successful crossover of rock and opera. They have given rise to many copycat artistes, some staggeringly good, some embarrassingly awful, and some blander than a British Prime Minister. Germany’s Coronatus are happy to throw their hats into the ring with their second album, and if nothing else have brought their own identity to the goth themed party (please leave your cloaks at the door).
The old chestnut of dual vocalists is dragged out on ‘Porta Obscura’, but in an interesting and effective twist Coronatus have gone for two female vocalists, one operatic (Carmen Schafer) and one more traditional (Ada Flechtner). Flechtner has a bit of an average voice, if I’m honest, but it doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the album, especially as Schafer has a top notch operatic range. The songs wander between English, German and Latin, so you won’t have much of a clue what’s being sung about (I like to think it’s an opera about toilets, but then I’m strange), but it doesn’t matter much, as like a grown up opera it’s all about the music.
Emphasis is placed firmly on the operatic side of the songs, and as a result ‘Porta Obscura’ (lit: ‘Where’s My Toilet?’) will repel as many as it attracts. To the uninitiated it will seem like it’s stuffed firmly up it’s own arse, but those who appreciate Night wish’s ‘ Poet & The Pendulum’ will get a real kick out of this whole album, as taken as a whole it’s not far away from a feature length version of that song with added Latin and opera.
Reviews for the album have certainly been mixed, and I was quite prepared for another disappointing Nightwish copy, but ‘Porta Obscura’ is a wonderful, epic album, and listening to it at full volume will really blow you away. It’s metal, it’s opera, it’s great.
THE NEW BLACK: "The New Black" 8
AFM Records 2009
The bio of this band opens with the following statement: "The New Black play rock, real rock, really heavy, with all the good stuff that comes along with it: hooklines, leads and riffs galore." well, that says it all in fact! The New Black is a new five piece rock band with very good vocal parts from singer Fludid (what the hell??). You could compare his throat sound like being a mix of Hetfield, Wylde, Anselmo and Patton, in other words: a great metal/hard rock voice! The music on this album is filled with catchy guitar riffs and melodies reminding me of Thin Lizzy, Black Label Society, Creed, Soundgarden and sometimes even the rather "commercial" Nickelback.
The CD starts with a Thin Lizzy-like twin guitar intro, followed by a very catchy chorus, while follow-up "Why I Burn" is rather heavy and dark, like e.g. Soundgarden or BLS; check out the "dirty" guitar solo there! "Ballad Of The Broken Angels" has a certain southern, bluesy feeling and is maybe one of my favourites on this album. "Welcome To Point Blank" is a straightforward metal track with a great guitarsolo, while the last song "Wound" features acoustic guitar, BLS-like vocals and the best howling guitar solo of the entire CD.
However, there are also a couple of rather mediocre tracks, like e.g.: "The Man Who Saw The Universe" (uptempo rock), "Coming Home"(rather commercial,
catchy) or "More Than A Man". But, all in all, this debut album is certainly worth listening to if you like melodic, metallic rock and it is real music, well played, well written, catchy and most of the times rather heavy! So check it out; listening tip: "Why I Burn".
STEVEN WILSON: "Insurgentes" 6
Kscope Records 2009
Workaholic Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man, Bass Communion and IEM) comes up with his first real solo album. My expectations were high, very high, as I am a true and very devoted Porcupine Tree fan but "Insurgentes" is nothing like PT, in fact it is a truly disappointing album... If this album would be the debut album of an unknown rockband nobody would even listen to it, least of all write a decent review about it. "Insurgentes" lacks Wilson's individual trademark, however if you are a fan of all the earlier mentioned Wilson bands/projects then you will probably like some of this stuff as well.
The album kicks off with "Harmony Korine", a rather dark, spacy track with a couple of PT and Blackfield influences; not bad, but not really surprising according to Wilson standards. Follow up "Abandoner" is truly boring, filled with electronics and drum computers and the same accounts for "Veneno Para Las Hadas"; an ambient-like track with too many soundscapes and not enough real music! "Salvaging" is at least four minutes too long as the same melody is repeated over and over and over without any interesting musical breaks. The absolute highlight, and the only one in fact, of the album is called: "No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun". It is a spectacular song with an amazing bass line played by Tony Levin and an outstanding, long, Zappa-like guitar solo played by Mike Outram. The second part of the song is filled with half-spoken vocals, quiet drums and bass guitar, before the end explodes with the distorded guitars again! Why not more of this kind of stuff on the album??? "Significant Other" is melancholic and reminds me of Blackfield sometimes.. As for "Only Child" I can only say that this song goes nowhere actually; it makes no impression whatsoever.
"Twilight Coda" is again mellow with acoustic guitars and lots of piano, while "Get All You Deserve" is probably the most boring song on the album.
The last track is the title track and this is a piano ballad, reminding me of No-Man, which is not really my favourite Wilson project anyway. All in all I have to say that
"Insurgentes" is truly disappointing as Wilson uses too many musical styles in each and every song, making it all sound too complicated and bombastic.
However, maybe I also expected too much... But I am really looking forward to the new PT album!
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