|StoneLake Uncharted Souls||UMP Sweden|
StoneLake is a good album to review after Overdrive, as it is another over the top Swedish melodic metal album and in many ways a nice companion to Overdrive, especially for fans of the genre. This is the band's fourth album and singer Peter Grundstrom is still one of the more original sounding guys out there. He has a voice that isn't for everyone – a mix of Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson, with a raspier edge and capable of going even higher if the need dictates.|
On Uncharted Souls I think Peter holds it in a little more, as the last album suffered a little due to the constant high-pitch delivery. Here is spends more time in a middle-range and saves those high notes for the chorus or impact points within a song.
The guitar playing of Jan Akesson is a brutal and as ferocious as ever and the album's production is again a credit to all involved.
Favourite songs include the opening straight ahead metal of Uncharted Souls; the over the top (Tonight) You're Beyond The Shadows, which showcases a more melodic side; the acoustic ballad Glory Days; and the brutal riffing of Don't Leave Me Behind, which although heavy as, still contains a good melody, especially in the vocal and accompanying keyboards.
Eyes Of The World is another heavy rocker with melody and Saint Or Evil is a big power metal ballad.
|Alibi Voice Of Reason||Z Records|
I've had a lot to say about Alibi in the past and particularly guitarist Vince O'Regan's production talents and the new Alibi isn't much different.|
Of the debut I praised the songwriting as classy, traditional British AOR. There really were some catchy moments on the album, but it was barely listenable due to a horrid tinny production.
Label Escape Music wasn't interested in releasing the follow-up, but Z Records stepped in instead. And again, the band have managed to write a section of likeable tunes that fans of British melodic rock will enjoy.
Vocalist Rick Chase has warm and appealing voice and his tone is perfect for this style of music. And again, the guitar playing of Vince is not in question – he calves out some good riffs and some memorable solos.
Hold On opens the album strongly in the same vein as the debut – featuring an equal mix of keyboard and guitars.
Just Another Day has a certain urgency and a very good chorus that makes it an album highlight; and The Longest Day is a good ballad that you could almost picture Bob Catley singing.
Need You Tonight is a little familiar, but still likeable; Tears Of The Innocent is a good moody ballad and Fire In The Sky is another classic Catley track if I ever heard one.
Sadly the downside is again that tinny production. Vince's trademark guitar sound coupled with a really annoying keyboard sound just destroy any bottom end the album might have, with the rhythm section playing little part in the overall sound.
|Bryan Adams 11||Universal (EU, JP, AU) / WalMart (US)|
Well, at the end of the day this isn't as bad as I first thought, but it still falls way short of expectations and even further short of my ideal Bryan Adams album.|
I guess fans have to be resigned to the fact that the days of Reckless, Into The Fire, Cuts Like A Knife and even Waking Up The Neighbors are so far gone, they ain't ever coming back.
Once you get past that mindset and accept that Bryan Adams 2008 is a crooning balladeer, you can sit back and take in 11 for what it is – a selection of laid back pop ballads and mid-tempo adult contemporary tracks.
There are a few songs here that hint at the brilliance of the songwriter responsible for so many past gems, but at the same time, there are equal number of absolute snoozers that simply don't rate at all.
The biggest issue I have is the fact that Bryan recorded the last 2 albums while on tour, with his portable hotel room studio set up. Writing and demoing on the road sounds like a good idea, but why not do it with the full band and then head into the studio when ready?
The way this is being done - everything is just so laid back – and I don't see the method of recording conducive to anything else.
Why Bryan doesn't utilize that kick-ass band of his and get his ass into a real studio is beyond me. He just needs to kick some life into his music, which is suffering from the slow tempo blues. Track By Track:
Tonight We Have The Stars and I Thought I'd Seen Everything are both decent mature mid-tempo pop/rockers, but to kick off the album at this pace suggests that its only downhill from here.
I Ain't Losin' The Fight hints at the past with a more familiar edge to the guitar sound, but the lackluster pace and average chorus kill off any chance of greatness.
Oxygen is ok and likeable enough for recent era Adams material. The best material is stacked towards the front of the album as it just about ends here.
We Found What We Were Looking For is a boring mid-tempo ballad that doesn't do anything for me whatsoever.
More mellowness with Broken Wings, which has a soulful edge and an ok chorus, but just falls flat. If only he got himself and his band into a proper studio, perhaps some of the edge could return.
Somethin' To Believe In is another laid back track that has a pleasant enough chorus, but is just something I don't need or want again from Adams. I have it already.
Mysterious Ways is slow, boring and without a decent chorus hook.
She's Got A Way features some nice guitar work and a better chorus, but the laid back vibe is lost in amongst all the other laid back tracks.
Flower Grown Wild has a country tinge to the song and again, is something I just don't need or want from Adams. A solid chorus lifts the song, but a rockier direction might have made this track a winner.
The subtle and acoustic Walk On By is actually quite brilliant with it's sparse musical arrangement, but again, the impact is lost amongst a collection of similarly paced slow ballads.
|Vertigo Takes Me Back||Renegade Sounds|
From the Canadian office of Renegade Sounds comes another lost treasure. Vertigo stay true to the formula of Renegade's past releases in that the 80s recording sounds a little dated now and the production is as good as it could be – but the songs and the style bring back good memories of that golden age.|
Freedom is a real gem of a 80s melodic rocker. Go All The Way is a little cheesy for me, but Takes Me Back is a cool Bryan Adams style early 80s pop rocker.
The drum sound makes things more dated than they could have been and the variable production overall is a downside.
But if you have enjoyed the Renegade output thus far, this is another release that will sit alongside those others without a problem.
Dan Baird & Homemade Sin
Fresh Out Of Georgie, Live Like A Satellite
This double live album from the former Georgia Satellites frontman was recorded in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the intimate JB's venue in the UK.|
The 21 track set comprises of all the tracks you'd expect to hear and some album favourites. This is as raw as it gets – the recording is a straightforward capture of the night's performance – a good recording quality and balanced mix.
The performance is good also – nice and raw and just how I like my live records, spontaneous and as it happened, complete with the odd bum note and some raspy vocals. Dan sounds a little raspier now than when I saw him some 15 years ago, but that's to be expected.
Special guests The Quireboys join Dan for the last 3 tracks of the night and overall I would recommend this to fans of Dan, but that's about it.
|Alliance Road To Heaven||Escape Music|
Two CDs have barely left my playlist in the last 6 weeks. Brother Firetribe is one of them, Alliance is the other.|
It is so pleasing to get an album of this quality to feature on the site. There are great albums and then there are finely crafted works of art. This is a masterpiece!
That said, Road To Heaven is an album with a subtle style and not as immediate as some releases. But therein lies the beauty…the songs work their magic each additional listen to the point where every track is considered essential.
The band has recorded two albums previously and I wasn't sure we'd ever get a third. The line up of Robert Berry (Solo, 3, Hush), Gary Pihl (Boston, Sammy Hagar), David Lauser (Sammy Hagar) and Alan Fitzgerald (Night Ranger, Sammy Hagar) are all busy guys, so it is so cool to see that they have made time for this band again. I listen to all these guys individually, so it is so cool to have them on record together again.
And after several years apart, they have all brought their A-Game and made this the best album of the three to date.
As you would expect from these guys, there isn't a note out of place on this album and the songs featured are just perfect.
This is American major label classic melodic rock at its very best. Classic in that it captures the best of what the 80s were about, yet it is not dated or even obviously retro. It is just classic rock. The song Road To Heaven is a brilliant opener and one of my favourite songs of the year to date. A killer chorus that isn't over the top, yet instantly memorable nevertheless.
Further feel-good rockers appear in the form of Anything Goes, Comin' Home and the awesome Remember Those Days.
The band delivers moody melodic rock like no other and I Can Breathe is another perfect example. Broken Glass is another fine example, as is the Foreigner styled Walkin' Away.
Ballads are also featured and the raw emotional vocal on Make A Stand is hard to ignore. The song builds into a great power ballad.
To further highlight another couple of songs, the emotion powered melodic rock anthem Nothin' Else I Can Do is utterly brilliant and the guys rock out on Not Done Till It's Done, which is another piece of melodic bliss.
The guys close with the fast moving Much More Innocent, which features some classic Boston style organ and great lead vocal.
Those with the first two Alliance albums will undoubtedly find a new classic here and if this is your first Alliance album, the other two are available with bonus tracks as a digipack package from Escape Music.
This is the kind of music that sums up what MelodicRock.com is all about.
|Asia Phoenix||Frontiers Records|
Asia return in full pomp and ceremony for their first release under the original line-up in many a year. I was quite a fan of the Payne lead band, so that was disappointing to see that go south, but when any band's classic line-up returns, it is hard to argue with that.|
This – as expected – is a perfectly produced and well thought out release, returning to the band's classic sound, lead by vocalist John Wetton, who sounds in fine form after recent health issues.
Asia's return was always going to happen once Wetton joined forces with Geoff Downes in Wetton Downes and I see this release as an extension of those releases, mixed with the band's early records.
There are attempts to recreate that glorious pomp sound as best demonstrated by the opening AOR anthem Never Again and the inspired closing pop sounds of An Extraordinary Life.
In between we get soulful ballads, extended instrumental passages, a couple of progressive left turns and more classic Asia pomp.
Nothing's Forever is another fine pop song as is the eternally happy sounding Alibis.
Shadow Of A Doubt is another highlight and a throw back to the 80s pomp/pop of early Asia. Nice keyboard work here from Downes and a solid chorus.
Elsewhere there is a more laid back tone to the album, especially on the two epics, both of which clock on over 8 minutes in length.
Heroine is a classy big Wetton ballad, and I love the guitar work on Over And Over.
But I am betting that most fans of the band and their most acclaimed line-up will be mostly satisfied with this release. The length of the album and its varied musical content should keep those fans busy for quite a while.
|Dokken Lightning Strikes Again||Frontiers Records|
Ever since Dokken took a left turn with the hideous Shadowlife album, there have been calls for the band to return to their classic 80s sound.|
While recent releases have been more melodically friendly, there is one thing that is clear. Dokken will never return to the sound of Under Lock And Key until vocalist Don Dokken sings in the manner he did on those old releases and that is simply never going to happen.
So we must accept the new Dokken for what it is. Don cannot sing like he used to and it is a sad fact that Don himself must be considered the weak link in this release.
Don's voice is far more restrained these days and now of a lower register and if we are honest here, Don generally sounds as if he is singing within himself until he goes for a bigger note, where he then sounds as if he had to strain to get there.
There are examples all over this record, but the verse vocal in Give Me A Reason is one of the worst.
Jeff Scott Soto can be heard throughout adding texture to the backing vocals and at times he is responsible for lifting the choruses out of second gear for the band.
The star of this album for me – without any shadow of a doubt – is guitarist Jon Levin, who has produced his very best to make this album as punchy as it can be and closest to the band's heyday sound as possible. And he achieves his goal and further's his good name in the process.
Jon's authoritve riffing and the generally punchy sound of the album as a whole are the two reasons it works. His guitar is all over this record.
The opening trio of rockers – Standing On The Outside, Give Me A Reason and Heart To Stone are all cool, guitar fueled old-school rockers and will keen Dokken fans happy.
The even more uptempo Point Of No Return is another solid track; Judgment Day and the groove filled closer This Fire are also highlights.
There are a few fillers here also though. Don slips into old habits on the modern rock influenced tone of Disease, which does nothing for me and Oasis is similar.
And How I Miss Your Smile is a very bland ballad. Thankfully I Remember is a little better.
|Chris Catena Discovery||Escape Music|
This is an interesting one. I was a strong supporter of Italian rocker Chris Catena's debut album Freak Out, on which he assembled a crazy list of guest stars and paid tribute to the bluesy side of hard rock. Chris is at it again with his new studio release Discovery, but this is a slightly different beast. |
Discovery is a concept record of sorts and another bold vision from the ambitious musician. Again there are several guest stars, such as Bobby Kimball, Earl Slick, Carmine Appice, Tony Franklin, Tommy Denander and Bruce Kulick.
The bluesy musical base is retained, and Chris takes a more central role in delivering lead vocals and much of the instrumentation.
But things haven't all gone to plan and what should have been isn't necessarily so.
I think by and large the song quality is there and the gruffness of the lead vocal isn't always appealing, but the biggest problem is the production quality.
The audio simply isn't clear enough and the muddy sound doesn't do the performances justice. I think the mix is also quite messy at times and varies throughout the record.
For example, the impact of Bobby Kimball's duet lead vocal on The Chosen One isn't what it should be. Daniel Flores is producer and to be honest, I'm surprised at the result given his fantastic track record.
But not all is a negative. As stated, the record is an ambitious piece of work again and Chris can be credited for aiming to impress as always.
18 tracks are listed, but several are short passages between other tracks. It makes for an interesting journey through the album.
Some tracks take on a psychedelic 70's rock feel, others are more classic rock, but all have that Deep Purple-esque bluesy edge.
|House Of Lords Come To My Kingdom||Frontiers Records|
For the first time in their long history, House Of Lords have actually made a record that matches the sound of their previous record. The band has their much loved "base" sound, but when you look back, each record has had its own feel and World Upside Down, while returning to the band's classic style, was still different enough again.|
Come To My Kingdom sees the band use the blueprint from World Upside Down to further enhance their reputation as a band that knows what fans want and can deliver.
The new album takes the most commercial aspects of the last record and amplifies them, making it a chorus and anthem rich affair.
In fact, there are so many hooks and soaring choruses on this record it can leave the listener exhausted upon completion. Fans who rejoiced at the band's return to basics on World Upside Down will find just as much to love here – if not more.
Personally I rate it even higher than the last album, which is no mean feat. I just love the pace of the record and the continuous appearance of more hooks and melodies.
Every single track on this record has a great chorus. Few bands can boast such a feat and few deliver such rich harmonies surrounding those choruses.
And like the last album, Come To My Kingdom has a monster sound. It is not as heavy as World Upside Down – it appears even more finely polished and refined. That might be an issue with some, but there is still plenty of great guitar moments and a stand out point on this album is the monster drum sound and performance by BJ Zampa. He is really all over this record and the powerful rhythm section is the force behind these songs.
Commercial and polished perhaps, this is still a very powerful record.
Famous of course for their bombastic intro's Come To My Kingdom is no different, but this time the guys throw off the Giuffria influence on Purgatorio Overture n.2 to concentrate on some guitar tricks. And so goes the theme of the record.
Every track on this album features another great hook and a memorable chorus, so just to highlight a few favourites -
Come To My Kingdom opens the album proper with a slamming guitar riff and a darker moody rocker that is classic House Of Lords.
I Need To Fly is an incredible mid-tempo soaring anthem with a chorus that is as instant as it is classic.
In A Perfect World is one of the album's heavier tracks, such as there was on World Upside Down, but I wasn't always blown away by those tracks on the last album. This is much more consistent and the chorus delivers.
Another Day From Heaven and The Dream are two of the softer tracks on the album, but again, a flawless James Christian vocal and great choruses make them memorable in their own right.
One Foot In The Dark has a darker feel and a really smooth verse, lifting to another incredible chorus and a heavier riff. I just adore this track and things go into overdrive when it is followed by the equally fabulous and anthemic Your Every Move which features another chorus to die for.
I Believe is slightly mellower but features another big chorus making this a triple dose of melodic brilliance.
In The Light closes the album with another big chorus and a rocking beat. It really is a case of one great song after another.
2008 has been a great year for melodic rock and this tops the list so far.
|White Lion Return Of The Pride||Frontiers Records|
I fully expect this to be one of the more discussed albums of this year. Already the debate has covered Mike Tramp's use of the band name and now it is time for the music to speak for itself. I wonder how many people will get hung up on the name White Lion rather than the music within? Too may I fear.|
White Lion was one of those bands that seemed forged on a partnership between Tramp and guitarist Vito Bratta and it is regrettable that the pair couldn't find a way forward after all these years. So Mike decided to use the name of the band he formed and has been a part of since day one, and that's fair enough. So many others do the same and if people chose to get hung up on this example, then that is perhaps not entirely fair.
The music sees Tramp return to the energy and direction of the old band, but I wouldn't say that it directly compares to any past White Lion record. Again, will people accept that or refuse to see past it?
Rather, I see Return Of The Pride as a mixture of influences from past releases with the addition of a new spirit.
What I hear most prevalently is the sound of Mike's own solo work, albeit in a harder edge style akin to that you'd expect to hear from White Lion.
I also hear a little of Mike's post WL band Freak Of Nature here – especially on a couple of tracks with a more contemporary slant and of course I do hear some classic White Lion in the mix.
I hear influences from Pride and also from my favourite album from the band – Mane Attraction.
This is also the most varied record that Mike has delivered. The style and tempo and length of the tracks are all quite varied and perhaps the diversity is something that makes the album a grower, rather than an instant hit.
Not every song is a classic and not every song worked the first time I heard it. But I have had quite a lot of time to live with this album and above and beyond all other comments – it is as catchy as it could be, with each song in it's own way offering a hook to sink your teeth into.
I'm a long time fan of Mike's writing style and his records – so I see Return Of The Pride as an extension of that and can't see why other Tramp fans won't be equally as impressed.
Track By Track:
Sangre de Cristo is one of two epics on the record, this one closing in on 9 minutes in length and featuring a fairly progressive slant as far as time changes. I guess Lights And Thunder could be the song's distant cousin, but it stands alone with it's fast pace and choppy guitar riffs.
Dream for me is almost a sequel to Mane Attraction's Love Don't Come Easy, especially in the chorus, albeit with a more contemporary guitar sound.
Live Your Life is the first track I found hard to get into and probably still is my least favourite of the album. The uptempo breezy rocker has a punkish sound amplified by the thumping bass line and lead guitar sound. Sometimes I feel the chorus feels a little simple for my taste, especially after the more intense opening tracks, but it still hangs in your brain.
Set Me Free is another track that features a haunting intro that builds to a hard edged guitar riff that then drives the song forward. It is Broken Heart for a new millennium and one of the more classic White Lion sounding tunes of the new record.
I Will is one of my favourite tunes of the new album. A sentimental uptempo melodic rock anthem, it is something a little different from Tramp – who I am not used to hearing such breezy and uplifting fare from!
Battle At Little Big Horn is the second epic of the record and is lyrically just as intense as the opening salvo. This track is a little darker, a lot heavier and is over way sooner than the 7 minute plus time frame should indicate.
Never Let You Go is the first proper ballad of the album and is a classic piano lead sentimental ballad with a strong and very likable chorus.
Gonna Do It My Way is another track which sounds like it could have been lifted from Pride, until the song moves on a little, then I figured it as something that sounds like it could have come from Mike's solo records. It has the mix of both influences and the simple chorus defies the intensity of some other tracks on the album.
Finally See The Light is another breezy pop rocker with a chorus that sticks in your head. It is a bit of a singalong song with some 80s keyboards creating a retro feel.
Let Me Be Me is another uptempo and rocking track with a mix of styles similar to Gonna Do It My Way. It's breezy, it's simple, yet it's also very catchy.
Take Me Home is a European Bonus Track and sees Mike stripping it right back to an acoustic and occasional electric guitar accompanying his raw vocal. A very nice ballad with additional orchestration. A nice way to close the album.
|Royal Hunt Paradox II - Collision Course||Frontiers Records|
Royal Hunt return with another change of frontman – out goes John West and in comes (surprisingly) Mark Boals. Boals has until recently been MIA and has returned with a vengeance – but has saved his best for now.|
The last few Hunt albums have been very consistent, but I questioned why include instrumentals on the last album when you had such a talented singer in West on hand. Something didn't seem right about that and to prove the point, West soon departed.
The band, led by keyboard maestro and song mastermind Andre Andersen began work on a new record without a vocalist in place.
Collision Course is the result. Not for the faint hearted, this conceptual release is a sequel to the band's acclaimed Paradox release.
On board is new singer Boals – best known for his work with Yngwie Malmsteen. A great singer and not my immediate pick for Royal Hunt, but upon reflection – perfectly suited.
And he proves this with an astounding vocal performance that I rate as one of his best. I'm sure he has had more melodic songs to sing in the past – the tracks of Collision Course aren't commercial in nature, but Boals adds extra melody with his delivery.
Lyrically this album is a real handful – describing "a 'collision course' of a modern Western world and a new breed, grown on Eastern religious movements." Sure – why not?!
Musically it must be a challenge to create some catchy choruses around such a premise and that is the one area which this album doesn't quite hit the mark with.
The record from start to finish is quite a wild ride of swirling keyboards, big guitar riffs and ear shattering double kick drum fills, not to mention the pounding bass of House Of Shakira's Per Schelander. Typical Royal Hunt in other words.
Production quality here is the best I have heard from the band in years. Thoroughly intense throughout and evenly mixed to give all elements their own space. It sounds phenomenal. But again, some more memorable hooks points within the songs would have knocked this out of the park.
Also joining in the fun on this epic release is Doogie White (Rainbow, Malmsteen), Ian Parry (Elegy, Consortium Project), Kenny Lubcke (Jokers Wild, Narita), Henrik Brockmann (ex-Royal Hunt, Evil Masquerade) among others.
And for good measure - there are additional female vocals, violins, cellos and more added instrumentation. Yes, there is a lot of music within this release to appreciate and several listens are required to get to know the basics.
My two favourite songs are the tempo setting storming rocker The First Rock and a rare let up in tempo fro the softer High Noon at the Battlefield.
Elsewhere things are very consistent and do flow from one song to the next – essential in the scheme of a concept record. My favourite from the band since The Mission.
|Crown Of Glory A Deep Breath Of Life||Metal Heaven|
Influences from AOR to metal eh? That's quite a range to fill any album, but Swiss rockers COG are up for it. Mixed by Dennis Ward, the album sounds the goods, but I'm not quite feeling the songs as much as I should.|
The bio states that fans of Europe, Pretty Maids, Stratovarius, Royal Hunt and Edguy should all enjoy this, but for me, if I don't like the vocalist I have trouble appreciating the whole package. The higher range isn't a problem…perhaps it is the pitch.
There are some pretty epic tracks on this album – 5 songs clock in at 6 minutes or longer. One minute the band is more straight ahead metal, then it turns symphonic and then it's back to double kick drum metal. The guys would be better adopting one style over another – in this case I prefer their efforts when going symphonic.
Still, not a bad release by any stretch - just not a preferential one given a crowded marketplace.
|Sandalinas Fly To The Sun||Metal Heaven|
A solid melodic metal album here – strong set of songs and an above average production puts those songs in the best possible light.|
And I like the singer – Rick Altzi of At Vance puts in a solid performance here. He's singing, as opposed to shouting or screaming. I think he shows some good diversity between a lower range and hitting some higher notes to emphasize a lyric, hook or chorus pinnacle.
This is not a heavy album – it's more hard rock than metal, but it has that European metal attitude and a good range of tempo's, from slow to double kick drum fast.
Best tracks for me are the kick-drum fuelled opener Fly To The Sun; the free flowing melodic hard rock of Never Seen Before; the uptempo Double Cross; and the more melodic rocker The Wrong Side Of Me.
One of the better examples of this genre for the year to date.
|Lechery Violator||Metal Heaven|
Can't say it is the best band name I have ever heard…but still…the band has their own style of European melodic metal and the album definitely has something to offer.|
I don't think the production is as sharp as some other releases around, but it still suits the style of the record.
The vocalist has a pretty gruff style, but you can't argue with the riffs on offer or the fact the songs are pretty memorable.
Rise With Me, Hero Of The Night and What Burns In Their Eyes are all solid metal tracks driven by big riffs.
Another solid release from the consistent Metal Heaven label and of appeal to those that follow European melodic metal releases.
|Last Autumn's Dream Hunting Shadows||Escape Music|
I have always had a lot of time for these guys and besides the poor LAD II release (we really must stop talking about that), the band can be credited with being perhaps the most consistent and regular suppliers of classic Scandi-AOR each and every year.|
Sweden's Last Autumn's Dream deliver their fifth studio album here – one which makes no obvious deviation from past records – but still sounds fresh enough to enjoy over and over again.
While not their best album ever and perhaps not the strongest sounding as far as a crisp and clean production, the album still manages to deliver a few new gems to the growing LAD catalogue.
Vocalist Mikael Erlandsson is in fine voice – that higher, raspy melodic range perfect for the type of AOR on offer. Guitarist Andy Maleck ensures that this collection of songs captures the pomp and ceremony of his former band Fair Warning and the Talisman rhythm section of Marcel Jacob and Jamie Borger give the band that driving uptempo beat.
Highlights on this album for me include the feisty melodic rock opening Strange Operation, featuring a glorious chorus; Rainbow Sky which features some well crafted pure AOR hooks backed by a harder edge riff; the urgent uptempo rocker My Alibi rolls along at a past pace and while I didn't rate the ballads on the last album as highly as previously, the big anthem ballad here I'm Not Supposed To Love You Anymore makes up for that in style.
The double dose of harder rock in the form of Lost In Moscow and R U Ready To Rock N' Roll gives the band an edge before the mood turns a little darker for Serenity and War Of The Worlds.
Save Our Love and Every Beat Of My Heart both have catchy enough choruses, but perhaps not quite of the quality heard from the band before, dropping the consistency of the last quarter of the album slightly.
The happy go lucky uptempo rocker Overnight Sensation ensures that things end on a positive note.
|Last Autum's Dream Live / Best Of||Escape Music|
If the review of the new album Hunting Shadows sounds promising, but perhaps still doesn't convince, then maybe this release is for you. Live In Germany / The Very Best Of is a 2CD set that captures the best of this band, both from the studio and in action, live on stage.|
Live In Germany is a short 8 song set from last year's United Forces Of Rock show and captures the band at their raw and energetic best.
The recording is bares bones to say the least and certainly is a fairly raw representation of their songs. But that's why I love it – live recordings aren't supposed to be high-gloss affairs.
I think this set is full or energy and that spills through the speakers. I especially love the band's version of the Zeno cult classic Heat of Emotion, which pushes Erlandsson's vocals to the edge.
There are some fluffed riffs, some broken notes and a seat-of-their-pants style delivery – but fans should enjoy this for what it is - live and in your face.
The disc adds two unreleased tracks which is a cool bonus for fans – When You Love Someone and You Won't See Me Cry are both solid mellow AOR numbers. If you are already a proud owner of the band's catalogue, then the live portion of this release will be the main attraction.
For new comers looking for the very best of the band's studio output, then this second disc – a 16 track walk through their catalogue – is an attractive proposition.
And for fans already familiar – it is still a good compilation of the band's best tunes. It reminds me why I like these guys so much.
They mix Scandi-AOR with Fair Warning, the softer side of Talisman and deliver those influences in a fresh and uptempo, yet familiar AOR style.
|Tommy Skeoch Freak Bucket||Indie|
I have previously had a lot of time for Tommy Skeoch and of course his band Tesla. Mechanical Resonance remains one of the very best rock n roll debut albums ever.|
1987 delivered Hysteria, Whitesnake, Mechanical Resonance and Appetite For Destruction. There's 6 months of back to back playback right there alone and a shitload of history.
Well, Tommy sadly came undone with substance abuse problems and didn't make it through the Tesla re-union after bailing earlier also.
But here he is delivering his debut solo album.
Sadly I must report that it is absolutely God-awful. I just don't know what he was thinking, but this is one of the worst albums I have heard in years.
Style wise we are talking tuned down punkish retro rock with a hint of grunge and Black Label Society intensity. It was recorded over just 4 days in Florida last year, but it is not the production quality alone that kills this record.
The style is not great, but even worse are the appalling lyrics which are an absolute insult to any person's intelligence.
Every song is filled with expletives – it's fuck this and fuck that and motherfucker this – good grief!! It is just embarrassing to hear someone one stoop so low. And then there is Tommy's singing. That's even worse than the guitar playing and the lyrics.
I always joke about Zakk Wylde's vocals, but Tommy makes Zakk sound like Steve Perry. The half shouted, half growling vocals grate in your ears worse than a bus load of Barry Manilow fan club members out on an all-singing day trip.
This is just awful. Bad bad bad. Sorry Tommy, but this is just self indulgent shite.
|Steve Lukather Ever Changing Times||Frontiers Records|
Steve Lukather's solo career has almost been as varied as his work with Toto. If you exclude side projects and his Christmas instrumental release, this will be Luke's 4th proper solo record.|
All three previous albums have contained their own individual flair and fans of Luke will well know that his own music tastes and influences are wide ranging. Most of those influences have been featured within his records, from the blues to jazz, straight ahead pop and progressive rock.
Ever Changing Times is perhaps his most focused solo album since the debut Lukather record of 1989. In terms of both style and substance, this record has terrific consistency and features a highly enjoyable set of songs that for the most part are very consistent in approach. Those that deviate with their own personality simply add texture to the overall record.
On Ever Changing Times Lukather follows the path set by Toto's Falling In Between record – a heavier guitar sound and some progressive arrangements, but a solid chorus at the heart of each track.
And again like Falling In Between, some old friends are at the ready to lend a hand and give the album a huge, familiar sound - songwriting partner Randy Goodrum is there (Synth, exec Producer), as is Steve MacMillan (production), Lee Skylar & John Pierce (bass) and Lenny Castro (percussion).
The album has a distinct Toto feel, yet the Lukather solo diversity.
This album really is a superb collection of songs that allows Luke to further showcase his incredible talent in a more diverse setting than a Toto record would allow.
Ever Changing Times is a dark, heavy and mid-tempo track with an imposing feel to it. Love the chorus and the guitar work within the song.
Switching tact immediately is the haunting slow ballad The Letting Go, which could have come from Falling In Between or any other Luke solo record. These are the types of ballads he could do in his sleep, yet with so much class at the same time.
That said it is one of his best ballads of this nature that I can remember.
I love New World. This track has a more progressive feel to it and some great alternate guitar parts. Then the chorus comes from nowhere in this big rush of energy and a flurry of guitars as the tempo lifts dramatically.
Tell Me What You Want From Me is another softer track, relying on some Westcoast melodies to carry the verse before another surprise chorus launches itself, featuring some aggressive riffing and a powerful vocal.
I Am is another great sentimental Westcoast/pop ballad that Luke does so well. Another strong chorus.
Jammin' With Jesus is one of those 'left-turn' tracks that is typical Lukather, yet out there at the same time. This is a mood track. Some days I skip the song altogether, other days I crank it even louder and simply bask in the heavy groove and underlying rhythm and blues of the chorus. An amazing bit of music either way.
Stab in the Back is another dip into the 70s rock past that Luke originated from. This is a breezy Steely Dan style Westcoast pop track with a definite groove.
Never Ending Night is a big Toto friendly power ballad that again could have come from the last Toto record or even Seventh One perhaps. Another highlight for me.
Ice Bound is a diverse little progressive flavored track. A simmering Totoesque verse runs through a bridge then chorus that sound fresh, yet familiar, with the guitars riffs varying throughout. How Many Zeros is perhaps the one track I'm not completely sold on in someway or another. Mid-tempo, but lacking a better chorus I feel.
The Truth is a beautiful and almost theatrical instrumental track. When is someone going to hire this guy to do film scores?
|Khymera The Greatest Wonder||Frontiers Records|
This is the album that finds Kymera truly defining their own place in the world. After credible debut featuring vocalist Steve Walsh problems soon appeared forcing a switch of vocalist.|
The big surprise was the recruitment of Pink Cream 69 bassist and star producer Dennis Ward as vocalist. His raspy, yet sultry vocals suited the more straight ahead AOR direction of the New Promise album. That was another strong album, but it is The Greatest Wonder which I think nails the best style for these guys.
This third album sees the band, with Ward again out front, deliver the best group of songs to date, as well as defining their AOR sound that little bit further.
This is smoother, moodier and probably mellower than both previous albums and to my ears, the best of the three.
It is great to hear some classy AOR recorded in the way it deserves – a big sound, great even mix and still powerful despite being fairly laid back in style.
The 90 second intro doesn't make a lot of sense to me in the context of the rest of the album, but after that point, things are sheer melodic bliss.
Keyboards swirl, guitars deliver riffs to carry the songs and the rhythm section in particular is really driving the beat behind the melodies.
I haven't heard an album like this for quite some time. Without being groundbreaking, it is refreshing to hear this brand of pure, moody European AOR done so well.
The album is very consistent and the strength of the songwriting makes it hard to single out particular tracks.
I don't think there is a huge variation in style or tempo within the album, but in this case the strength of the songs and the manner in which they are delivered means that is a positive. However, if I was to mention personal highlights – the uptempo Borderline is really powerful European AOR and quite excellent.
Burn Out is dark and heavy during the chorus, giving it a real attitude; the slow and emotional Love Has Been And Gone highlights the more sentimental side of Ward's vocals; The Greatest Wonder has a little extra punch and a cool chorus; If I Can't Be has an almost Def Leppard layered vocal style that I like and Stay Forever has another instantly memorable chorus.
|Work Of Art Artwork||Frontiers Records|
What an absolute treat it is to be able to review two outstanding AOR albums at the same time, despite both having different approaches and different appeal.|
The bind between them is that in this modern world dominated by melodic metal and often sub-par sounding AOR releases, they are neither.
Both Khymera and Work Of Art are pure AOR of the highest quality with great production to back them up.
In the case of Work Of Art, you have a young Swedish band who worships at the House Of Lukather and all things Toto.
And as much as Toto is a clear influence in their music – don't think they are a one trick pony or a clone of that classic band.
But for that matter – if it is done well, then what does it matter anyway?
Work Of Art's debut album is simply stunning. Filled with glorious pure AOR mixed with touches of breezy high-tech Westcoast and influenced by one the very best band's in the business, it overflows with harmonies, melodies and above all, a killer production that could have seen this band on a major label back in the day.
The mix offers the many layers of vocals, keyboards, harmonies and guitars plenty of room to breathe, while the silky smooth vocals of Lars Safsund glide over the top.
Lars is quite something – I love this guy's voice. Mixing the best of Toto's Joseph Williams with Signal era Mark Free, every note sung contains melody.
The production is fantastic – big beats and a driving rhythm that give even the softer tracks added power. And I really like that many of the tracks are quite uptempo, moving the album along at great pace.
Style wise the album takes the best AOR moments of Signal's classic Loud & Clear and mixes those with the many facets of Toto – the straight ahead keyboard AOR of Seventh One and Isolation and the breezy Westcoast of Fahrenheit and Seventh One again.
The music within is that kind that offers a new hook and melody with every track.
The opening track sums up the whole album. Fast paced and immediate, filled with soaring vocals and swirling keyboards, it is one of my favourite tracks in recent memory.
Maria brings the Toto comparisons to the forefront and again on the Seventh One styled percussion, keyboards and Lukatheresque guitar work of Camelia.
And so it continues…Her Only Lie has a great chorus and driving beat; Too Late is classic Williams era Toto; Whenever You Sleep is 80s AOR overdrive; and Once In A Lifetime is a perfect Scandi AOR ballad a la Radioactive/Tommy Denander.
Elsewhere on the album Peace Of Mind is again another stand out AOR song; and Cover Me is fabulous – the heaviest track of the album – it has an appealing darker and more dramatic flair.
|Leverage Blind Fire||Frontiers Records|
Finland's Leverage burst onto the world stage in 2006 with one of the best melodic metal album's of the year. Hell of way to make an entrance with what I still rate as one of the best debut albums seen within the genre. So expectations are extremely high for Blind Fire, the band's sophomore release.|
I think fans will be very happy with the efforts of the band second time around. There are a couple of points I will make, but to cut to the chase, the band has taken the blueprint of the debut and reproduced it again here.
There are no dramatic changes to style or direction or tempo even, so those impressed by the debut will find plenty more to appreciate here.
Vocalist Pekka Heino made an instant mark and is back in full force again here, with his melodic prowess matched by his sheer breathtaking power – right now in my mind, second only to Jorn Lande in this genre.
The barnstorming double-kickdrum fired Shadow Of The Night opens the album with a rush, but it is King Of The Night that features the better hook and some tasty guitar soloing.
The free flowing Stormchild and the slower but more brazen Sentenced continue the power onslaught of the first twenty minutes of this album. There's barely the chance to take a breath.
Hellborn sounds brutal, but it is a little more melodic and has an anthemic quality to it, with Pekka's vocals designed for a stadium feel.
Mister Universe has a similar feel before the band eases up for their first ballad – Don't Touch The Sun. Of course, this is not your average ballad, but rather a slower intense, emotional track that builds throughout, to a suitably powerful conclusion.
Run Down The Hill takes us back to the opening moments of the album and a flurry of double-kickdrums and powerful hooks.
Heart Of Darkness has some fabulous guitar soloing within and a good chorus hook, but I think the track still had some potential to be bigger and better.
Learn To Live on the other hand fulfills all potential and delivers all, in being a super powerful and passionate metal ballad complete with soaring vocals and guitars.
I recall an old statement about the challenges of following up a monster debut. The author eludes me at this time, but the comment went something like "a band has a lifetime to write and record their first album, but then must repeat that entire process in less than a year in order to deliver an equally good follow-up."
I'm referencing that now as I feel that is somewhat the case here. I think the debut is probably the better album, but only by a narrow margin, and because it sounded fresher, due to the band having the advantage of being unknown and being able to surprise their audience.
The production quality is almost as good as the sonically bombastic debut. Certainly the same approach has been taken, but the debut had a slightly crisper top end sound.
Oh, and minor point to some perhaps, but the cover art is simply not good enough for a band of this stature. The debut had a simple, but really classy feel to it. This cover has little appeal aside from the band's logo.
Incidentally – that classic debut album Tides has now been re-issued by Frontiers in conjunction with this release (complete with the 2 original Japanese bonus tracks), so if you are new to this band, so not hesitate to pick up both albums at once and be prepared to be blown away.
|Vindictiv Vindictiv||Escape Music|
The opening weeks of January sees these pages under a metal onslaught. There are some melodic gems coming up, but right now, we have another metal release – this time from yes…bloody Sweden again!!! They sure as hell know how to turn out some records in that country.|
Thankfully this is yet another classy one, with a very strong production and some catchy songs made even better by the involvement of Goran Edman, the man who can sing anything from sweet AOR to balls out metal.
This reminds me (not only due to Goran's involvement) of prog-rockers Act, yet not so progressive and a little more hook-friendly.
The guys still change the pace around and deliver lots of swirling keyboards and guitars, with solos and left-turns appearing at regular intervals.
Whereas Act was a little too progressive for my tastes, I feel this is more driven by the hook and the rest is presented to supplement that hook and build the song.
I'm also hearing a lot of soloing in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen – those moment so shred come from within the song before Goran re-appears and kicks in with a chorus or vocal line to get things rolling again.
Highlights include the opening Fool's Paradise, featuring some classic Edman melodies; another good chorus on David's House; the quirky The Royal Loo and the ballad Hymn To Desdomona.
|Saint Deamon In Shadows Lost From The Brave||Frontiers Records|
The members of new comers Saint Deamon hail from both Sweden and Norway, with the guys delivering a melodic metal homage to their musical heritage.|
You couldn't deliver a more European sounding melodic metal album if you tried.
The gruff vocals which move between lower and a higher register at times remind me of Goran Edman (without the finesse), while the musical accompaniment is comparable favorably with the likes of fellow European metallers…mmm…I have to admit I'm struggling to find comparisons here.
To be perfectly honest, I'm finding it hard to come up with much to describe Saint Deamon, other than they do what they do (we've heard it before), very well.
Basically it is a very good album of catchy melodic power metal, with a solid production, a big beefy sound and a vocalist that suits the style perfectly.
With the question of style answered, all that is left is to question the quality of the songs and performances – and there are no worries there either.
My Judas and the title track certainly get my attention of powerful metal tracks with a strong melodic hook and the slower more intense My Heart is something different again.
Black Symphony is frantic and Deamons features some big harmony vocals to go with a hammering beat.
Sometimes less is more and I don't feel the need to state much more about these guys.
|Bassinvaders Hellbassbeaters||Frontiers Records|
Sometimes reviewing isn't meant to be easy. It doesn't get much harder than this. I have to say that I'm not digging this release at all.|
There are some true legends of the bass world delivering solos on this record, but to get to those you first have to live through some truly ordinary songs that lack control and direction and feature at times some hideous growling "vocals".
The bio states: "Bassinvaders has been a creation of Markus Grosskopf (Helloween) while sitting in a bar and enjoying a few drinks."
Sorry, but my ears are wishing the idea remained in the bar.
Billy Sheehan, Dennis ward, Rudy Sarzo, Marco Mendoza and more all deliver solos, but the vocals and lack of melody in any song drive me to hit skip before the solos ever arrive.
There are no guitars on this record at all. Just bass. So yes, it is experimental, but it also has to be listenable. And the drum sound has almost no impact in the mix which I think is strange, as you'd think a bass driven record would attract a huge rhythm section sound.
Still not quite sure what this release is doing on Frontiers, but the label has been known to experiment from time to time.
|The Poodles Sweet Trade||AFM Records|
The Poodles stormed onto the scene along with Brother Firetribe and Wig Wam as a breath of fresh melodic air from Europe.|
On album number two the feedback has been mixed. I hear some don't like it as much and I hear others like it more. That's what happens when the formula of the debut is changed and that is what happened here.
The band doesn't sound radically different or anything like that. But their sound has been toughened up and now sounds a little more European melodic metal than the debut album which featured a few different approaches with the song delivery.
This album is tighter, more urgent and heavier…but left behind is a little of the variety and instant chorus melodies of the debut.
Still, what we do have is another fine record filled with in your face uptempo melodic hard rockers as only the Scandinavian's can deliver.
Something that attracted me to the band in the first place was their thumping rhythm and heavy beats and the opening three songs of Sweet Trade cash in on that again.
The songs get better and better with repeat listens, but it is only seconds before the beats crash through the speakers and belt the listener about the head.
Flesh And Blood and Streets Of Fire both rock with urgency, but it is the more melodic and anthemic Seven Seas which gives me chills.
Other highlights are the barnstorming hard rock of the suitably titled Thunderball; the fast rocking but melodic Reach The Sky; the huge lighters-in-the-air ballad We Are One; the harmony filled melodic rock of Without You; the monstrous anthemic Band Of Brothers (brilliant and both songs more like the debut) and the balladesque anthem Shine which closes the album.
Highlights as you can see are numerous and the production quality of the album is once again unquestionably great!
|Sebastian Bach Angel Down||Caroline/EMI|
I tried so hard to like this album – but therein lies the problem. Why should anyone that appreciates any given artist, be put in a position where they have to work at liking a new release? It should just come naturally. I'm a Sebastian Bach fan, so after so long waiting, I really hoped this would be a kick ass record.|
For me the debut Skid Row album is cool…but the second one Slave To The Grind was freeking phenomenal. I played that album for the best part of 12 months straight and still dig it. I thought Subhuman Race was a massive let down and Skid Row without Sebastian has been a mixed bag at best.
Sebastian Bach solo isn't much better – his live album was ok, but only featured a few new tracks (which I enjoyed), then his project release The Last Hard Men was diabolically abysmal. So, with some anticipation after all the talk and the involvement of producer wiz Roy Z, I guess I was hoping for a Slave To The Grind style hard rock monster here. Not so.
In fact, I was hugely disappointed in a number of areas.
I think the production is adequate, but nowhere near the strength of past Roy Z efforts – for example the guitar sound here is just awful.
The direction is questionable…some are going to dig the modern direction and the more pronounced metal sound, but above all other issues, I just don't find the songs to be that likable or effective. And Sebastian has one of the great voices of metal, so why all the screaming and forced tricks on this record?
Track By Track:
The title track Angel Down is simply down tuned guitars and a howling scream.
You Don't Understand has a more traditional Bach vocal and a decent chorus too, but the vocal is buried in the mix, overtaken by a punk/metal guitar riff.
Back In The Saddle is a screaming cover of the Aerosmith classic, but at track 3? The album is yet to establish itself, and already a cover is thrown into the mix. If Axl Rose wasn't guesting on this track, it would be left to close the album.
Axl Rose further proves he is still alive by guesting on the two tracks that follow too.
(Love Is) A Bitchslap is another downtuned punky track with a horrible guitar sound, but I like Sebastian's vocal here and at least there is some merit to the chorus.
Stuck Inside is another relatively heavy track with modern influences that doesn't do a lot for me.
American Metalhead should really be a classic Bach anthem given the title, but the screaming vocal and horrible guitar sound lets it down.
Negative Light features an awful production sound. Metallica had a new asshole ripped for themselves for releasing something that sounds like this.
Live & Die is a better metal track. I still don't like the guitar sound at all, but the song is one of the better album tracks and the chorus closer to old school Skid Row.
By Your Side sees Bach singing in full power and passion for the first time on the album. A nice acoustic themed ballad that old fans should appreciate.
Our Love Is A Lie is another punky metal track.
Take You Down With Me and Stabbin' Daggers both have bite and metal angst and I think will be appreciated by fans.
You Bring Me Down is modern metal and without a memorable chorus.
Falling Into You is the second ballad of the album and nice again to hear Sebastian singing.
And there is simply too much screaming on this record. Bach shouldn't be looking to prove himself a metal icon, he is already a hard rock icon and that should be good enough for him.
Now, I know I might get hate mail for this review. I wait in readiness, but before you paint me a Bach hater, remember that I rate Slave To The Grind as one of the best records of that era. We already knew Skid Row needed Sebastian Bach, now we know that Sebastian Bach needs Skid Row.
|Northern Kings Reborn||Warner Finland|
I really really wanted this album to work. Covers albums generally don't, but there are the rare gems. What normally works best is when an act includes on killer cover within an album of originals and fans can gather those up for their own compilations.|
I thought this could be one of those gems – the concept has 4 fabulous Finnish metal vocalists combining with that countries' natural affinity with dark symphonic tones – mixed with some classic pop/rock covers. But overall, this album doesn't work for me and apart from a few utterly fabulous covers within, the majority of the album just don't quite work or is downright strange.
I was counting on the quirks of the Finnish metal sound to deliver some interesting twists here and that is true enough, but not always in a positive sense.
Where it works – Journey's Don't Stop Believing is turned into a symphonic metal song with a searing pace and progressive base making it a real highlight.
Jethro Tull's Fallen On Hard Times kind of works as a metal anthem.
Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer works as an uptempo metal song – even if it is a little all over the place.
Where it doesn't – Mr. Mister's Broken Wings is sped up a bit and I don't mind that, I just found that much of the song's heart and melody are lost here.
Billy Idol's Rebel Yell is slowed down to a snail's pace and given the dark metal treatment. Bizarre and imaginative, but ultimately almost unlistenable.
Cutting Crew's sentimental I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight is slowed even further into an orchestral/string dominated ballad, but is just too slow and the vocal doesn't work at all for me.
Same for In The Air Tonight. The gruff vocal just takes all ambience from the song. And I hate the original version of Creep anyway, so a slower, darker metal version doesn't do it for me either. And Lionel Richie's Hello? Well, there are some songs you just don't mettalize!
|Lynn Allen And The Horse You Road In On||Escape Music|
American melodic rock outfit Lynn Allen's history dates back to 1984, but this is their first album in a decade, in what is somewhat of a surprise return. Lynn Allen has picked up where they left off – in the mid-90s as if grunge never happened. |
The Horse You Rode In On is a very simplistic album. The vibe is relaxed and the recording appears simple. Straight forward in nature, a true live in the studio kind of feel, featuring a set of very easy listening melodic rock tracks. My first listen I didn't give much value to the production, but there is nothing wrong with it at all, the direction is simply…well, uncomplicated!
This isn't a hard album to like. It's very pleasant.
The music as already stated is easy listening American AOR, with a strong 80s pop/rock feel and some memorable choruses. Nothing is over the top here – the vocals are largely laid back and never forced, despite the tempo moving along at a reasonable pace.
Highlights include the opening track I Will If You Will, a very likable 80s FM style number that Billy Squier or Sammy Hagar might have released in 1982.
Enough To Make Me Sober has a laid back riff and an instant chorus; I like the raspy vocal of Michelle and Would It Hurt You is also pretty instant.
|Steve Grimmett Personal Crisis||Metal Heaven|
Grim Reaper/Lionsheart vocalist Steve Grimmett steps out with his own band for this new project, which I think will find him fresh acclaim and the smiling faces of long time fans as he delivers everything expected.|
His new band has power and this album is traditional British heavy metal in every way.
Grimmett's vocals remain on song; the raspy warmth still offers a lot of melody.
Highlights from the album for me include the powerful and fast moving, yet very melodic Wait For Ever; the heavy opening rocker Karma and the venomous Afterglow; the slower, but still intense Promises; and the hooky Strength (great vocal).
The album is very consistent and for the most part remains close to full paced and full spirited throughout.
There is no real break in tempo or energy and I think fans will regard it as a very strong melodic metal record.
Sircle Of Silence
Sircle Of Silence/Suicide Candyman
Long out of print in Japan, I remain unsure if there is actually any real demand for these records to be re-issued. Made in the mid-90s, both Sircle of Silence records came at a time when grunge had wiped out good music and those left high and dry from the media betrayal were looking to reinvent themselves to get back on the bus.|
The band features David Reece (vocals), Jay Schellen (drums) and Larry Farkas (guitars).
The debut was a super heavy and grunge inflected slice of hard rock, with a distinctly modern groove. It was hailed at the time as a credible and contemporary release after several other bands tried and failed with similar direction changes.
Suicide Candyman however is just plain awful. What was established on the first album is amplified here to the point where all melody is lost and the album is simply a misguided tuned-down Seattle love fest without any redeeming song hooks.
I presume this re-issue came to be after Reece joined Escape Music singing Gypsy Rose. I look forward to hearing David singing with his natural flair, but this grunge inspired effort left me cold then and continues to do so now.
|Mind's Eye A Gentleman's Hurricane||Lion Music|
I will simply echo the sentiments of most other reviews I have read about this new Mind's Eye release and that is – for a progressive rock concept album, you won't find much better anywhere. I love the sound these guys have. The power a trio can exuberate is incredible and the powerful but melodic vocals of Andreas Novak always get my attention.|
75 minutes of absorbing music here and a powerful storyline, not to mention all the key changes along the way.
The only thing I will state is that the last album featured better set of choruses. This album is meticulously constructed with noting out of place, but a few more choruses to latch onto would have sent it over the top for me.
|Stereo Fallout The Other Side||Hilltop Partners|
Marvellous album this, and typical of guitarist/vocalist Steve Brown's post-Trixter output. Following on from Throwan Rocks/40ft Ringo comes this new power pop/modern rock influenced outfit. As always Steve has top notch songs in play, making the album very catchy and very likable. Stepping away from the punky pop flavor of 40ft Ringo, Stereo Fallout is more straight forward modern melodic rock, with some tracks venturing into hard rock territory and others veering towards commercial radio friendly territory.|
Production quality is great as always and the fans of Brown and Trixter are going to walk away happy.
Best tracks include the moody modern rock of End Of The Girl, the ballad Brand New Me, the catchy as hell Go (from MRCD3) and the anthemic Coming Home.
I still prefer the 40ft Ringo album - that was a killer - but this is another great slice of modern rock.
|Ken Hensley Blood On The Highway||Universal|
Any other time and this would get a full featured review (as would all the titles here), but I must press on so I can get to the 2007 MelRock Awards.|
Uriah Heep's Henlsey has created a really solid classic rock styled album here that to my ears is more commercial than I anticipated, considering the involvement of Jorn Lande, Glenn Hughes and John Lawton (all as guest lead vocalists).
It is always great to hear Lande singing, the man is a genius, but here is even sweeter as he gets to do things a little differently – more relaxed and in a straight ahead rock mode, rather than all-out hard rock or metal.
The opening rocker Just The Beginning contains a wonderful vocal melody and it is a joy to hear Jorn sing each time. Hensley and Jorn join to both sing we're On Our Way, which again is very commercial and catchy.
In fact Jorn takes the first 4 tracks and returns for an additional track later in the album.
Glenn Hughes delivers a smooth vocal on the laid back What You Gonna Do and again on the closing classic organ drenched rocker The Last Dance.
A very classy and enjoyable record and an essential one for fans of Hensely/Heep/Hughes and Lande.
|Rick Springfield Christmas With You||Gomer Records|
I really didn't expect to like this album, so for me there is nothing really lost from the experience aside from the fact I long for a new studio album.|
I love Rick Springfield (no secret there), but Christmas albums are generally regarded as another rung down from the already lowly esteem covers albums are held in, and Rick just did one of those too. I don't think I am alone in starting to get anxious about the lack of new rock material, but hopefully 2008 will solve that issue.
But right now we have this seasonal release to tide fans over. I guess if Steve Lukather can make a Christmas album work, then such a thing as a cool Christmas album is possible after all! Rick and Luke must have been talking...as this is a record with considerable class.
The album features one new Springfield composition – a track Rick has played live previously when the occasion required.
The song – Christmas With You – is a sweet acoustic style ballad with a country twang. It sets up the record and suits the style of the remaining tracks.
Speaking of which – the songs here are mostly traditional of origin and laid back in nature, driven primarily by acoustic guitar, piano and a soft vocals. No liberties have been taken with the material here. Rick is true to the traditional originals, which will delight certain portions of his fanbase, who I will imagine will play this album 24/7 until December 26 before shelving it until December 1 next year.
No real deviation from the script comes into play until the bluesy jazz of I'll Be Home For Christmas (a style Rick handles with ease) and the surf culture inspired rockabilly of and instrumental Deck The Halls (with Boughs Of Longboards).
This record will be cool for some. Rick is a smart businessman and he knows where the money is. I have absolutely no doubt that many of his adoring female fans will already be crooning along with Rick to this one and in that regard he has hit the spot totally.
It is perfectly played, performed and produced – as we all expect from Rick.
I can't see as many of Rick's male fans grooving to this…we'll have to continue waiting patiently to see what comes next. Meanwhile…my wife really digs this!
|Rick Springfield CD Re-Issues||RCA/BMG Japan|
Rick Springfield fans that can afford to order the new Japanese remasters should immediately do so.|
BMG Japan have released limited edition 24 Bit remasters of the classic RCA releases Working Class Dog, Success Hasn't Spoilt Me Yet, Living In Oz, Hard To Hold, Tao and Rock Of Life. The WCD release is the same master as the SonyBMG release of last year, but the remaining releases are all fresh masters and oh, boy! Do these sound amazing!!
I haven't heard Rick ever sound so good and the added clarity and vibrancy of these masters gives these classic albums a new lease of life.
And I have never heard the high-tech production of Tao sound so alive, nor the crisp million dollar style of Rock Of Life sound so electric. Tear It All Down and World Start Turning simply leap through the speakers with the raw emotion of Rick's convictions carried in every note.
Each of these albums has in their own way sounded ahead of their time when originally released. Name another album out there from 1983 that sounds anywhere near as good as Living In Oz! But now, 20 and 25 years later, these albums sound as fresh, vibrant and important today as they did on the day they were released. Classic stuff indeed.
|Rick Springfield The Early Sound City Sessions||SonicPast Music|
There are two pieces of the Rick Springfield recording portfolio still missing. There were more gaps, but Sahara Snow and Rick's own Special Edition releases have offered some missing rarities. What remains in studio vault limbo, awaiting official release is the Springfield 74 album (itself another fine slice of 70s pop) and the original session recordings of what was to be known as the Beautiful Feelings release.|
Originally recorded for release in 1978, Beautiful Feelings was Rick's second shot at US stardom after 1976's brilliant Wait For Night album was curtailed by label troubles.
Sadly, this set of recordings was besieged by problems of a different nature. The album never got released and after Rick finally broke through in 1981, the owners of the studio masters took it upon themselves to use Rick's lead vocals and had the entire album re-recorded with new musicians. The result was an "unauthorized" solo release in 1984.
Until now the original recordings have remained buried.
So, fans that own everything Rick and have Beautiful Feelings will recognize the track list (still in the exact sequence) and also the lead vocal. What they won't have heard is the original music Rick intended to accompany his vocal.
This is a nice little collector's piece and I'm pleased to say the audio quality is very good indeed considering the age of the material. For the uninitiated, the material is 70s pop, with a traditional Springfield emotional edge and a little pizzazz.
Point of interest – the track Spanish Eyes would later evolve into Don't Talk To Strangers.
Even though the album was recorded two years after Wait For Night, I find the latter album far more appealing and emotionally charged. This is a nice archive piece, but curious onlookers might get a better history lesson from the legendary pop perfection of Wait For Night.
|StoneLake World Entry||Metal Heaven|
I like these guys – the Swedish outfit delivers powerful and intense metal, but still melodic at all times, no matter how brutal the riffing.|
I would say that they are probably an acquired taste, as everything to do with this band is turned to 10. The rockers are in your face and the big ballad Words Are Not Enough is simply metal intensity that reminds me a little of the Steelheart debut just heavier.
The higher pitch vocals, delivered at all times with maximum volume can at times be a little too much (City Of Illusion for example), but the riffs flow easily and the tempo barely slips aside from the big ballad.
Rest My Eyes On You would be heralded as brilliant was it delivered by Iron Maiden, so give these guys a listen.
|Cinder Road Superhuman||Caroline/EMI|
After stints with SR-71 and his own band Plunge (Atenzia Records), guitarist/vocalist Mike Ruocco strikes gold at last with Cinder Road and a major label deal.|
The high energy nu-breed rockers are gaining attention and so they should with a quality modern rock album of power pop/punk songs, filled with guitar riffs and soaring vocals.
This is absolutely one for fans of the aforementioned bands. The song quality is better than Plunge and the collaboration with producer Marti Frederiksen, who along with Mike is involved in every aspect of this release has guaranteed a monster sound for fans.
|Night Ranger Extended Versions||SonyBMG|
I hate these cheap ass Extended Versions packages. I love the releases, but for an extra 12 cents, the label could actually print a stand alone cover and actually announce the releases via a press release! But no, they just turn up whenever and fans tend to pick them up by chance – exactly the way I found this.|
Night Ranger's Extended Versions is in fact the long touted Live in Japan 2003 release, with the band's standard 10 hit tracks (wouldn't cost the label a cent more to add extra tracks and value) performed with their usual flair and good humor.
The mix is perfect and aside from a rough vocal to kick-off the album (Sing Me Away), the rest of the set is more essential stuff for Night Ranger fans.
It may look generic, but it sounds great. Only thing....it's too short.
|Endeverafter Kiss Or Kill||Rzor & Tie|
These American rockers have taken the best part of 2 years to get this album released and are now hitting the campaign trail trying to sell it.|
Something tells me they will win some fans along the way – me included – but is it simply too good for the general American modern rock audiences?
The opening two tracks have a real dirty retro rock n roll spirit and there is no doubt the band has chops. But track 3 Gotta Get Out sees the guys ease up a little and slip into a Waltham style modern melodic rock vibe that I really appreciate.
And the ballad Next Best Thing is almost classic melodic rock from the early 90s.
There are riffs galore and plenty of soloing. The guys are pretty young, so it is refreshing to see them playing a retro theme that isn't along the lines of Jet and Wolfmother. There's a little of that 70s rock theme in the music, but more a glam/good time feel such as Thin Lizzy or such plus 80s and nu-breed influences.
All Night is another classic Waltham styled fell-good melodic rocker. Check this one out if retro/nu-breed appeals.
|Crazy Lixx Loud Minority||SwedMetal Records|
More classic sleaze hard rock from Sweden. Those guys have it all don't they? Crashdiet, Dirty Rhythm and 80s glam metal such as LA Guns are all part of the influence, with the guys delivering a true style old-school hard rock release here.|
The opening track sets it up, but Dr Hollywood grabs your attention with some great melodies and huge vocals a la 1988 – classic Sunset Strip.
The band may be new, but their attitude is old-school all the way and the high-octane delivery of these tunes will gain the attention of many classic hard rock fans.
Perhaps good enough to be mentioned alongside the hallowed name of Wig Wam, these guys really put a smile on my face. I hear at times a lot of Jamie Rowe in lead vocalist DC Danny's voice, so expect a little glammed up Adriangale here too (Want It the best example).
The chorus of Want It is pure Wig Wam gloriousness and Love On The Run proves the singer has pipes.
They slow it down for Make Ends Meet, but then Death Row is so good LA Guns could only wish they came up with the riff. And there's more, but I'll let you guys discover this.
Good, good fun with a big production, even bigger vocals and great hooks. What more could you wish for in 2007? Safe to say that it is a highly recommended release for fans of old-school rock n roll attitude.
|The Click Five Modern Minds And Pastimes||Atlantic|
I really enjoyed the debut Click Five release – pure power pop with some huge harmonies. The departure of a lead vocalist would perhaps normally been seen as a death knell, but the band simply replaced him and moved on. The new album has a slightly different sound and there will be some that won't adapt, but personally, I think this is almost as good as the killer debut, just a little more focused on the lighter side.|
What remains the same is the band's forte of quirky power pop songs filled with huge choruses and layered harmonies is the foundation of the album. More diverse than the debut and more influenced by 80s pop such as The Cars, the guys really know how to craft a catchy song. Stuff like Flipside, Jenny and the monster modern rock ballad I'm Getting Over You are simply undeniably catchy and pure class. So cool to hear a real singer fronting a modern outfit.
|Yellowcard Paper Walls||Capitol|
The band's previous breakthrough album was good…but this record surpasses that in every way. Energy in performance, production and song likeability. This is a terrific straight ahead commercial modern rock record. The band rocks, they have a half decent singer and they manage to include a chorus in every song! |
There's a little pop/punk, but the majority of the album is just really well crafted modern rock. There is also a definite maturity shown by the band here, crafting songs rather than just belting them out. Keeper and Shadows And Regrets best highlight that.
Mind you, The Takedown and Five Becomes Four are as heavy and as frantic as the band has ever been. This record features a nice balance of material. Th eband's best to date.
|Ann Wilson Hope & Glory||Zoe Records|
We all know she is a wonderful singer and the voice of Heart, but this doesn't really work for me. I have been a Heart fan since the comeback breakthrough Heart album in 1985 and have followed virtually everything since. There has been some classic material over the years, but also some misses and I think while this album is very well recorded and beautifully sung, it just isn't interesting enough to capture the attention of the majority.|
All covers, except for the closing track, I just can't get excited about a largely laid back and eclectic collection of tracks - some featuring guest vocalists such as Alison Krauss, Gretchen Wilson, Wynonna and Shawn Colvin. Kind of sad to see Immigrant Song again featured here too – hasn't Ann Wilson done enough Led Zeppelin already?
Laid back and obscure…not a winning combination.
|Ted Nugent Love Grenade||Eagle|
This doesn't even need a review really…it is a Ted Nugent record. You know what is coming, you know what is inside and you know what the songs are about!|
And sure enough…it is what it is. Nugent fans will debate the album's merits in comparison the classic era vs the 80s and his recent output, but for the casual listener, it is just plain and simple – a Ted Nugent record.
On this particular Ted Nugent record, Damn Yankees partner Jack Blades takes over production and plays bass on a few tracks. Barry Sparks features on the remainder and drummer Tommy Clufetos rounds out the line-up. Tommy Shaw and Eric Martin provide backing vocals, so if that all isn't enough to convince you, perhaps songs like Love Grenade, Funk U, Bridge Over Troubled Daughters and Spirit Of The Buffalo will?
All in all, this is a high-octane, guitar fueled rock n roll frenzy, with no prisoners taken and no apologies made. Classic Nugent and slickly produced without taking out the Nugent danger.
|Action Action||Frontiers Records|
Action's debut comes after 20+ years of history between the members and as one might expect, sounds like a throw back to the glorious mid-80s commercial melodic rock/AOR days. This album is a real blast from the past. Despite being recorded over the last year or so, this album has both feet firmly planted in the mid-80s.|
There may be nothing new or original about the sound or style here, but the fresh production and the nature of the songs – catchy commercial pop/rockers – within means that it stands out as a quality release and of definite appeal to readers of this site.
The primary members of Action are acclaimed guitarist / songwriter David Ramos of Mars Hill fame and Mars Hill lead vocalist Jack Marques.
This is a different beast from the nu-breed influenced sound of Mars Hill though – this is nothing but pure 80s through and through.
The big harmonies and the sweet happy go lucky feel of the songs reminds me of several notable acts such as Nelson, Boston, Ted Poley and maybe some Def Leppard riffing for good measure.
I didn't think Without Your Love was the strongest way to start the album, but the sweet sugary harmonies and higher pitch vocal of Someday is pure melodic bliss (in that very familiar way).
The harder rocking Here In My Heart would have been a crowd pleaser live in 1988 and Destiny is pure American FM-blend AOR.
Forever will make you want to sing along; Loveless has an Extreme like groove and Heaven Tonight features some nice guitar play but for me the highlight of the album is the keyboard driven early 80s pop rock of Cinderella. A real trip back in time.
Feel The Fire is another big on harmonies track worth checking out.
|Lana Lane Red Planet Boulevard||Frontiers Records|
Red Planet Boulevard is one of those albums that will receive almost uniformly positive reviews because of the qualities it has, but will likely still leave outsiders wondering what the fuss is about. That is said with the greatest respect for Lana Lane – she's a rare talent and together with husband and musical partner Erik Norlander – always delivers the goods.|
But the symphonic rock of Lana Lane is not for everyone and those not yet converted will not find anything likely to cause an epiphany here.
Red Planet Boulevard is a well-produced, well-executed slice of melodic and symphonic hard rock/metal, with soaring female lead vocals riding over a set of 12 complex, lengthy songs that fans are going to eat up.
The album carries on the established sound and delivers more great performances over an hour of intense music. I love the mood of Into The Fire and the chugging pace of Capture The Sun. The hard rock ballad Jessica is also impressive, with a softer more soulful vocal in play.
From there it isn't until Save The World that another song gets my attention, although long time fans may disagree.
For me personally the album plods a little, in that the majority of tracks retain the same tempo and the sheer length of the album makes that element a negative.
The closing title track (nearly 8 minutes) is another favourite as it retraces the path the rest of the album took.
|Seven Tears In Every Frozen Tear||Frontiers Records|
I had no real expectations here, but based on history, Frontiers Records doesn't generally sign newcomers unless they have something to offer.|
I think that holds true here, as yet another Swedish outfit makes good.
The band was described as Evergrey meets Journey. Well, I like one of those comparisons – there is definitely a taste of the power meets progressive style of Evergrey. I think the Journey reference is a little simplistic, it has been used I think to emphasize the point that the band integrates a lot of melodic into their music, despite being primarily a melodic metal outfit.
Vocalist Zoran is far too gruff to ever be considered a Perry/Journey style, but I still like his chops.
This is a heavy record, but keyboards still figure prominently in the music here, adding both a progressive twist and a somewhat retro feel to a more contemporary guitar sound.
I get the feeling these guys are well seasoned live performers, as the structure of the songs is such that it sounds like it could be taken out of a studio and into a venue without any major changes. This is album of minimal overdubs and a fairly no frills approach. But thankfully, a decent production gives the album a big sound.
Highlights for me as far as best tracks include the melodic rock of Faded Memory; the faster tempo of Reflections; the straight forward title track and the rocking duo of The Story Unfolds and Dream Of Insanity.
|Indigo Dying Indigo Dying||Frontiers Records|
Indigo Dying is another of these "project" releases where you never really know if there will be another or if this is a one-off release.|
This project features the vocal talents of Chilean born singer Gisa Vatcky – her credits include such luminaries as Andrea Bocelli to Enrique Iglesias, Placido Domingo, Melissa Etherige, Luis Miguel, Perry Farrell, Meat Loaf and more.
Front and center of this project is once again Fabrizio Grossi. He handles bass, programming, orchestration and yes…production.
And yes, this album features that questionable Grossi sound that has become synonymous with his work since initially delivering some high class work for Frontiers a few years back.
The guitar sound largely horrible (Mordechai Hauser supplies the riffs) but the rhythm section is a little better than the last few Grossi produced outings.
The star of the album is Gisa – this girl can sing! And even better – she has the songs to back that talent. For all my comments about the sound, Indigo Dying still has a lot to offer. The melodic metal/hard rock record has a definite dramatic flair in the delivery of the songs – a touch of symphonic rock that suits the songs and the singer.
Some songs are contemporary melodic metal (Better, Hear Me, Fair Enough); some more anthemic hard rock (All I Ever Wanted, Island, Shattered Life); and others take on that orchestral flair (Breathe In Water, Superman).
Real Life Fairytale is pure melodic rock with a sentimental twist and a highlight of the album and Go is an acoustic driven track which closes the album on a reflective note.
Making life a little more interesting again is the participation of Michael Kiske (Breathe In Water) and Mark Boals (Far Enough, Superman) – turning three tracks into spirited duets.
|Empire Chasing Shadows||Metal Heaven|
It's that voice again! Yes, the British soulman of melodic metal Doogie White has another notch in his bedpost, this time teaming with Empire following the departure of vocalist Tony Martin. White becomes the third singer in four albums for the band, formed by guitarist Rolf Monkes and featuring the powerhouse rhythm section of Mike Terrana (Drums) and Neil Murray (Bass).|
Doogie rules on this album – he is in such tremendous form and his voice matches the design of the album perfectly. This could perhaps be the best Empire release yet – the production is as sharp as I have heard from the guys and the rhythm section really packs a wallop. Rolf Monkes provides some fine riffing and tasteful soloing, but the basis to any strong album is a set of songs that appeals.
Chasing Shadows has just that – with 10 songs that all feature a defined structure, delivering some strong choruses.
Highlights include the moody opener Chasing Shadows; the busier Rainbowesque The Alter; the more melodic Mother Father Holy Ghost (great lead vocal); the slower Child Of The Light and Angel And The Gambler.
My only critique would be one that other albums of this ilk tend to suffer from – the plodding tempo of having several songs in the same mid-tempo range. Slow it down and speed it up a little folks!
|Goodbye Thrill Goodbye Thrill||Kivel Records|
US melodic rockers Goodbye Thrill were a last minute addition to my first ever concert event MelodicRockFest. I wish I had time on the day to watch them, as all reports were favorable on the day. The band is fronted by a person who is no stranger to MelodicRock.com – Marc Ferreira (vocals/guitar). I have long been a fan of Marc's nu-breed influenced pop/rock solo work (a considerable catalogue of songs!) and he also made an appearance on MRCD2 with a song coincidently that also kicks off this album!|
The spirited melodic rocker Super Perfect World is a great kick-off and is full of energy.
Marc's solo albums Fallen Heroes (2002) and Balance also impressed. I it is from these albums that some of the Goodbye Thrill material comes from.
Previously Marc has played all instruments himself, and that is where the only weak point of his material was. In Goodbye Thrill we have a band to help him on his quest to be a melodic rock idol. This debut album sees fresh recordings of these past songs in a full band format as well as brand new material. Marc seems to step away from some of the Def Leppard production influences of the earlier solo recordings, slipping into a more straight ahead Harem Scarem/Firehouse brand of melodic rock, but always with that slight contemporary approach and those Leppardesque harmonies.
Dean Cramer from Funny Money adds guitar muscle and Firehouse bassist Dario Seixas brings further experience to the line-up.
All in all, Goodbye Thrill is a thoroughly enjoyable slice of 2007 styled melodic rock with some instantly catchy songs entwined around others that take a little time to become as familiar.
Marc's South American heritage shines through in places where an accent in the vocals changes the emphasis on certain words (Rainy Days most obviously), but to me in this instance, it adds character to the songs.
Highlights for this album for me include the moody melody of Rainy Days; the uptempo but sentimentally themed Give You Away; The Def Leppard AOR of Dead To Me; old favourite Fallen Heroes and the layered melodies of It's Got To Be.
The album closes with a couple of tracks that don't work as well for me, but the majority make for a very enjoyable album.
|Soul Doctor Blood Runs Cold||Metal Heaven|
I think this is the band's forth album now – amazing how time flies. Good news for fans that are yet to pick this up – what are you waiting for? This CD is possibly their best yet, I like the attitude of Blood Runs Cold and think the songs gathered here are very consistent and thoroughly enjoyable. From the high-energy Blood Runs Cold to the Led Zeppelin rip off For A Fist Full Of Dollars to the acoustic ballad The Ocean. Production is generally pretty solid. It varies a little through the album, but at its best it rocks the speakers.|
Vocalist Tommy Heart has carved out his own individual sound for this band away from Fair Warning and I think the guys now know what they are doing and are comfortable in their own skin.
|Terry Ilous Here And Gone||Fyko Records|
Terry is a great singer…I have always appreciated his voice and from the debut XYZ to the JK Northrup releases, I have everything in-between. I do feel a little frustration that such a great singer isn't making more records than he is. I hope that can be rectified soon enough! This compilation is a collection of XYZ demos and solo cuts that haven't seen the light of day previously (such as the cover of Foreigner's Waiting For A Girl Like You).|
Ok, so this is for die-hard fans only and is a mixed of songs and sound quality, but considering the various sources and age of the material, together it sounds ok and figuring throughout of course is the unquestionable talent of Mr. Ilous himself. One classy singer…
|Shade One Way Line||Rockcliffe Records / NL Distribution|
Guitarist Andrew and keyboardist Simon (both from Dare) breakaway for a side project featuring female vocalist Emma Shade. Hence the name I guess! This is something a little different – so it won't be for all ears, but it does have an air of class about it and there is no doubting the catchiness of some of the songs on offer. |
It's Alright is a great contemporary pop/rocker and Lean On Me is a fairly traditional melodic rocker. Both songs are great and they are not alone. The album does flip flop back and forth between these contemporary pop rockers and mellower, more organic acoustic ballads with a strong country vibe. I know what style I prefer and my guess is fans of this site will agree. But for those with a broader taste than the standard fare, this album does offer something soft and soothing.
|Bruce Springsteen Magic||Columbia|
88697 17060 2
Well done Brucey…there is nothing like a great rock record with Bruce plugging the guitar in again and enlisting the help of the E Street Band. Unlike The Rising, this album features a more collaborative sound and more consistently likeable songs. The Rising had some classics, but Magic spreads consistency across the whole record, from the opening rawness of Radio Nowhere, to the Born In The USA styled Livin In The Future; the feel good Girls In Their Summer Clothes and Human Touch styled rocker Long Walk Home. Highlights are plenty and spirits are high. My favourite Bruce album since Human Touch.
|Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre||Epic|
This album will forever define pop icons Duran Duran. It will define them as a band unable to create anything remotely worthy of attention without star guitarist Andy Taylor and I believe it will ultimately prove to be their tombstone. This kind of a release is a career killer. I doubt anyone will care enough to see another studio album from the band after this. And if they do – it won't be for this record label. They will be dropped – guaranteed.|
Andy Taylor gave this band the edge they needed – and ultimately their best material is that which features his input. Duran's early days saw them create some timeless pop masterpieces. The band then floundered without him and now after one very credible comeback album Taylor departs again, leaving the band to falsely believe this programmed synth dance-pop is actually what fans want? Absolutely not. Even in terms of synth pop, these songs are utterly horrendous - forgettable and without a decent chorus or hook. Beyond disappointing - considering what could have been. And what's with that artwork?
|Loverboy Just Getting Started||Rock Star Music Corp.|
A lot of bands try and modernize. It's hard not to when the core of one's career is centered around the early 80s and just about everyone has moved on since then.|
Of the bands that have updated their sound – some work, some don't. Few have nailed it. Who out there would have put money on Canada's Loverboy recording the most credible contemporary album from any 80s act in recent memory?
Vocalist Mike Reno stated early in the piece that the band would be taking their time on this new studio release. I love hearing that from an artist. The last time I did we got Toto's Falling In Between. The time before that – Journey's Arrival. True to form, the guys took their time and have totally nailed it.
This is Loverboy's finest release since the early 80s. So good in fact I might even give it the nod ahead of another favourite of mine, the 1987 release Wildside.
I might do so as this album returns to the band's core sound even ore than that release did. This is Loverboy's Get Lucky for the new millennium.
The band is giving others a lesson on how to update your sound while retaining the core integrity of the band's classic style.
The opening lines of Just Getting Started borrows' from the band's classic Working For The Weekend to deliver the opening lines of this album, but the guitar sound is darker and heavier than we are used to and the production style mirrors the contemporary style now blasting across today's radio.
But the chorus – that's nothing but classic Loverboy – uptempo, anthemic and full of joy. This is what it's all about folks.
And doesn't Mike Reno sound a million bucks? His voice soars across this album like his life depends on it.
Interestingly the band decides to cut to a ballad to follow the opening rocker. And so a pattern of rocker/ballad/rocker is formed throughout the album. Such a move normally gets on my nerves, as it can kill the flow or momentum of an album. But not so in this case as the ballads are not all slow numbers, they also have life and spirit in them and to be honest, when every track is brilliant, there is no downside to what comes next.
The album flows beautifully and even now after several weeks of play time, I still look forward to every track that follows.
So Fade To Black is the ballad in question, a pleasant and enjoyable ballad with another strong chorus.
The rocker One Of Them Days is more in keeping with old-school Loverboy and features that familiar Paul Dean riff we all love. A less obvious chorus than elsewhere on the album, this dirty rocker is needed to rough up some of the smoother moments.
Interestingly, this is Paul's only co-write of the entire album!
The whole album was penned by Mike Reno in collaboration with a team of outside writers.
The ballad Back For More is simply brilliant. Heartfelt and emotion filled thanks to a key vocal from Mike Reno, the song has all the hallmarks of a Loverboy classic, yet retains a contemporary enough approach to see it on radio today. And what a wonderful inspiring chorus!
Lost With You features some production effects that brings this uptempo rocker into the new millennium, but again, what an amazing classic Loverboy chorus. Great vocals and when the anthemic chorus bursts through its fists in the air time.
I Would Die For You is a more acoustic driven ballad and slows the pace down a little after the frantic previous track.
The Real Thing sounds like it might be another ballad, given the slow and acoustic intro, but as the song builds, so do the feel good endorphins. The chorus reaches mid-tempo, but is instantly burnt into the brain. Another winner.
The One That Got Away is nothing short of astounding. This is Loverboy at their very emotional best and is one of the best ballads I have heard in years. This is a true power ballad – an art form that I thought has been forgotten. Commercial radio beckons and had this been released in 1990 it would have been a million seller.
Time to rock things up again with the feel good pop rocker As Good As It Gets. Another smooth vocal leads into a Def Leppard styled chorus that again appeals instantly.
Stranded is yet another ballad that closes the album, another classy anthemic rock ballad that any band would be proud to call their own. Could one band have the 2 best ballads of the year on one album?
That's the album folks…a very short, but thoroughly brilliant release that doesn't have a dull minute on it.
A special bonus download is available – another new song called Alive – recorded live in concert sometime last year. This track could have also made the album, as it is in the same league as the rest of the tracks, but it is cool to get it in any format.
|The Codex The Codex||Frontiers|
The Codex marks a welcome return for former Yngwie Malmsteen and Ring Of Fire vocalist Mark Boals, who disappeared without explanation from the scene a few years ago.|
He's back….for good we hope…and launching his return is this collaboration with the melodic metal master from Sweden – Magnus Karlsson.
If you know of, or are already a fan of Karlsson's work – Allen/Lande being the stand out, but also Starbreaker (with Tony Harnell); Tony O'Hora (Escape Into The Sun) and his own band Last Tribe – then you know the sound and style of this record.
That is, uptempo commercial melodic metal with plenty of guitar riffs and solos, but also a booming production quality that is amongst the most consistent in this business.
Karlsson also writes the material and he a killer ability to bring out the best in the vocalists he works with.
Mark Boals sounds in top form as expected. Neither he nor Karlsson deviate from what might be expected of them both, so fans should have no hesitation in taking up this release.
Musically speaking, The Codex sits a little between Starbreaker and the Tony O'Hora release. I rate it better than Escape Into The Sun, but perhaps not quite as strong as Starbreaker.
But that said – Karlsson is yet to deliver anything that isn't amazing, so just rack this one up as another jewel in his ever expanding crown.
The opening track Beyond The Dark has a Allen/Lande vibe to it – the traditional opening track requirements all ticked. But it is the faster paced and bigger melodies of Raise Your Hands and Toxic Kiss that get things really rolling for me.
The middle of the album rolls through a couple of more traditional metal themed songs which Boals handles with his usual flair. Dream Makers and Whole Again slow things down in a moodier vein, the latter being the pick of the two – a great melodic metal ballad.
Mistress Of Death features an aggressive edge while Mystery is a very melodic rocker mixing things up a little late in the album.
Prisoner gets my pick of one of the best tracks on the album – dramatic and a hooky chorus that is pretty much instantly likeable, over some of the other material which takes more listening to appreciate.
The near 7 minute progressive rocker Garden Of Grief closes off this epic album in epic style.
|Airtime Liberty Manifesto||Escape Music|
Airtime is the long awaited project featuring former Triumph guitarist/vocalist Rik Emmett and fellow Cannuck, Von Groove's own Mike Shotton, who handles all drums, percussion, keyboards and backing vocals. Emmett also handles bass duties.|
First and foremost, it is just bloody magnificent to hear Rik plug in and sing loud again!
For some time now he has dabbled in instrumental and light jazz releases, diversifying further into blues. The man can play anything, but his legacy was built around being a rocker, so it is rewarding to long time fans such as myself to hear him back in the rock groove.
However, we can't let the fact Rik is rocking again be the single fact in assessing this new release. Expectations might lead us to conclude that perhaps Airtime might recapture the glory of Triumph or even the AOR friendly style of Rik's early solo records.
It does neither – instead he again breaks new ground with a more classic retro rock feel that touches on 70s rock and perhaps a more progressive edge a la Rush.
It took some time to both understand and appreciate this release. The rewards are there as it is a solid release – just something a little different.
I will restate that the best thing about this release is to hear Rik Emmett rocking again, with some of the heaviest riffs I have heard emanate from his guitar playing.
Edge Of Your Mind is a fast moving progressive rock number with a melodic vocal and some fine harmonies – perhaps the closest thing to Triumph you might hear on the album, if it wasn't for that frantic riffing.
Midnight Black & Blue is the heaviest thing I have heard Rik associated with - tough, in your face and featuring a modern hard rock riff and a similarly uncompromising chorus.
Liberty features that familiar mix of acoustic and electric guitars that were used in Triumph and Rik's own solo work. The 6 minute track features a lot of guitar work, a couple of tempo changes and a sort, but catchy and dramatic chorus.
Elsewhere on the album, the uptempo River Runs Deep is the most traditional and AOR styled anthem on the record and is a definite highlight. I'd love to hear more like this.
Find Your Way carries a moody edge, but could have used a more polished production. Addicted is similar in sound, this time carrying a groovy blues based riff.
Code 9 touches on the jazzy side of Rik's musical personality, but I'm not sure it works on this record. I share similar feelings about the acoustic ballad Moving Day, but the rocking Rise is more fitting.
The dramatic instrumental Transmutation is ok and Cryin' Shame is a bar room rocker to close the album.
Return Of The Mother Head's Family Reunion
Richie Kotzen just keeps making records! Finishes one and starts another. He is consistent in releasing a new record every year and amazingly, they are all very consistent in maintaining a high quality. The last couple of records (which Richie played entirely by himself) are truly great, so new music is always anticipated.|
Something a little different this time around – for the first time in several years Richie has used a full band to record 12 new compositions. The style isn't far from what Richie has delivered over the last few records – blues based melodic rock with a funk and soul influences.
Once again he delivers the goods, with long time fans destined to be satisfied once again.
I'm not sure this matches the output of the last 2 solo albums in particular, but that's a minor point as I thought those to be outstanding, and this still isn't far behind.
I think collectively the songs here don't stand out as much as individual tracks.
Highlights include the bluesy and very soulful but melodic Fooled Again, which runs at 8 minutes in length without ever sounding too long; the soft ballad Bad Things is very cool; Do It To Yourself has a definite groove and a strong chorus; the soulful AOR of You're Crazy is also cool, proving the mid-section of this album to be the strongest.
Can You Feel It is simple, but rocking and you can't help but dig the vibe Kotzen is sending out.
|Gary John Barden Love And War||Escape Music|
Former MSG vocalist Gary Barden is back with another solo album, quickly following up the well received Agony and the Xtasy and Past & Present.|
Barden knows when he is onto a good thing, so Love And War features the very same team as the last couple of records, including the production and musical guidance of Michael Voss.
This record is so tight and so slick…it really has a monster sound and the work of Voss just gets better and better. Creatures Of The Night is as good as Barden has delivered in his recent releases. Unchain Me is slower, but just as solid.
The Last Samurai rocks along at a good pace – perhaps a bigger chorus would have been even better. Dragon's Fire has that chorus…a nice melodic vocal over a driving beat.
Love Lost is another stand out – a more earthy feel and some well placed organ.
The other highlight is the closing ballad In Love & War – nice to see Barden in a more sentimental light.
I haven't said much about the other tracks as they are all solid and enjoyable. This is a very consistent record as are Barden's other recent releases.
The only thing I would state is that maybe the overall songwriting on this record doesn't quite match the intensity of the last album.
There is a tendency among the songs to sound a little bit the same. More variation in tempo and approach on 2 or 3 songs might have broken the record up a little more and added some needed spice.
|Dogpound III||Lion Music|
Sweden's Dogpound get better and heavier with each release. The debut was ok, the band's second and last album saw them add a real AOR edge to their sound, but on the new album III it is time to rock hard baby!|
The gruff, yet melodic vocals of singer Henrik Andersson are something to get used to perhaps, but I'm a converted fan already. The band storm through this album with a massive wall of sound that I didn't anticipate.
The massive guitar riffs of My Own Sin are enough to cause ear bleeding…just fantastic…and the chorus hook is enough to grab your attention first time around.
Less urgent, but just as heavy, Glass Jar has another cool chorus, even though it is somewhat buried beneath that wall of guitars (not a bad thing!)
The album rocks from start to finish, but highlights among the 14 tracks include the attitude filled Human Hologram which features a catchy fast paced chorus; the smoother and more melodic anthem Dead And Gone; and the absolutely massive guitar fuelled anthem Blind, which is right up there for rocker of the year.
There is a ballad of sorts – the slower and passionate One, but it still rocks. In A Life is about the only time the album shifts to a softer gear.
The album comes to a big finale with a sentimental piano ballad. Perfect to close the album as it wouldn't fit anywhere within the album.
|Toto Falling In Between Live||Eagle Records|
On the back of the masterpiece Falling In Between comes the never ending world tour, which unlike some acts out there – really and truly has been a world tour, seeing the band cover the USA, Europe, UK, Asia, Japan, Indonesia and even Australia. And they are still going and going round for more.|
Having seen the band on this tour I know how tight they are and the revised set list is probably the best they have ever taken out on tour. I always enjoy a Toto live release – there is just something about the energy within this band and their music that lives through the speakers.
But often I find myself wishing the track list was a little different and more representative of just how much this band can rock. Falling In Between Live finally fills that void and makes for the perfect companion piece for the studio album.
It is great to see several of the new tracks given a run at the top of the set before the band dive into their unmatchable catalogue of hits and album favourites.
Of course, the classics are delivered in a few different ways. Given the changes in vocalists over the years things have to be a little different live, plus the fact founding members Mike Porcaro (bass) and David Paich (Keyboards) are off the road.
New keys man Greg Phillinganes has more than made himself at home and legendary bassist Lee Skylar fills his guest roll with aplomb.
So Phillinganes takes lead in place of Paich, second guitarist Tony Spinner sings on a couple of Joseph Williams era tracks and Bobby Kimball and Steve Lukather provide the heart and soul of this band's sound as they always have.
It may not be the classic Toto line-up, but it is a classic line-up nevertheless. The talent on this stage is simply phenomenal and all the Toto classics are delivered with class and appropriate respect.
What I like best about this release is the fact it is a 2CD set encompassing the whole set list.
There are three solos among the 23 tracks and a few abridged versions to fill the set with as many of the Toto classics as the guys can. The energy of tracks like Hold The Line, Rosanna, Stop Loving You and recent tracks King Of The World and the abridged Taint Your World is awesome.
And three tracks from the underrated Kingdom Of Desire album? Perfect!
Closing the set the way the band does on Africa was amazing to watch. The seamless way the guys leave the stage one by one is one of the best concert conclusions I have ever seen, so it's great to hear that again here.
|Axel Rudi Pell Diamonds Unlocked||SPV|
We have all heard the lines about how all of Axel Rudi Pell's albums sound the same. The last 4 especially have all featured the same number of tracks, the same format and even the same location within the album for the epics, rockers and ballads. When you think you are on a winning formula, don't change a thing!|
I do think the pairing of Pell with Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioeli is perfect and I always enjoy their output.
Despite the overkill of covers albums these past few years, the news that Axel was to do his own featuring some less obvious tracks was met with some enthusiasm by me as I figured this was the ideal chance to do something different. Not so!
Well, to a point anyway. I'm still not sure whether to classify it as genius or absurd, but this all-covers affair sounds just like every other ARP album of the last 5 years. Axel has tweaked the songs covered to fit his usual format, stylistically as well as sonically, to the point where a few songs are more ARP songs than they are covers.
Case in point U2's Beautiful Day.
As usual we get the extended instrumental intro, then an all-out rocker (Riot's Warrior), a rocking anthem (U2) a slower more epic track (Chris Rea's Stone) and the obligatory ballad. Interestingly Axel has turned Kiss' Love Gun anthem into a slow acoustic ballad to fit his usual format. It makes for one of the more interesting tweaks on the album.
Highlights among the album for me are the straight ahead rocker Fools Game (Michael Bolton); Rock The Nation (Montrose) and the epic In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins).
The album is undoubtly well recorded and sounds a million bucks and Johnny Gioeli lays down a world class vocal yet again.
At the end of the day this is another Axel Rudi Pell album. Same format, same sound…new tracks (this time covers of classic rock songs). This I suppose will be of comfort to those that don't want any changes, but a little strange for those other fans that were looking for something fresh. My main question is how come Johnny Gioeli can continually record vocals for Axel, but not for his own Hardline release?
|Eddie Money Wanna Go Back||Big Deal|
Eddie Money is one of my all-time idols. So much so he was the very first interview I ever did as a journalist. I adore his music and the passion and emotion his voice carries – few can match him. Past albums Can't Hold Back, Right Here and Ready Eddie remain in constant rotation on my personal playlist.|
As much as I love any artist, I am not afraid to hold the opinion that they got it wrong.
I said as much for my all-time #1 Rick Springfield and his average covers album from last year. But this is at least 2 steps further below that. I'm not big on covers album to stat with – few have worked perfectly. Strike one.
Strike two – I hate the 60s. A decade filled with God awful disposable pop that has been covered to death in the decades since.
Strike three – Eddie is taking his performance on this album absolutely seriously. Each song is faithfully reproduced in the same spirit it was recorded in the 60s. No rocking out here.
Of all the crap songs of the 60s, Ain't No Mountain High Enough remains at the top of the heap – could this song possibly be butchered in any more feel good Disney movies??
Close behind that song comes Mockingbird. I know this song is part of US folklore, but…Eddie, what were you thinking?
Build Me Up Buttercup? Ok, so it worked in There's Something About Mary, but that was a one time deal.
Sorry Eddie, this is for your very oldest fans that have since lost their nerve and can't rock any longer. Perhaps their hearing is such that soft crooning songs is all they can take. This may be where Eddie started out all those years ago, but it isn't where the vast majority of his fans want him to be today. Me? I still wanna rock. I "wanna go back" to the very best this iconic artist can deliver.
|Ted Poley Smile||Frontiers Records|
Vocalist Ted Poley has been keeping himself very busy in recent years and I like the fact that there is something available for fans to appreciate at regular intervals.|
2008 will see a new Danger Danger release, the long awaited Pleasure Dome project and a new Poley/Rivera record.
But back to the now – following on from Ted's Collateral Damage record of last year – the singer has decided to break away from his partner for that record (Vic Rivera) and create their own side project for future releases.
For his solo career proper, Ted made a great decision to (on this occasion) work with guitarist/producer Jeff Northrup. The result is an album that will be very familiar for Poley fans, yet sonically a little different, which is important as there is nothing worse than having everything you release sound the same.
Jeff's guitar work gives this a nice edge and his production work makes this (I think) the best sounding record Ted has released on his own.
Stylistically is where the familiarity comes in – as this is purely and simply – a typical Ted Poley release. That's going to please long time fans, but possibly leave those that are yet to get the Poley charm still wondering what they are missing.
But for established fans, Smile is Ted at his best. Melodic in every note he sings and passionate about the subject matter – love, life and relationships.
While a few songs take the lead and rock harder than expected, the remaining tracks are in typical Poley style – oozing melodies and mid-tempo AOR passion.
I initially questioned the vocal in the opening rocker Waiting Line – the chorus sees Ted adopting a hard edge than I heard in a long time. The verse reminds me of Danger Danger, so thumbs up on this one.
Of the harder edge tracks, Smile and Luv On Me are old school Poley and the uptempo Why Can't We Pretend That Its Over? is very tongue in cheek and not to be taken seriously. There are a couple of songs that sound as if they came from the Poley/Rivera song hand-book – Will Ya being the most obviously influenced.
On the more melodic side - Going Blind is a wonderful AOR track with a passionate chorus and heartfelt chorus. What If She Knew is all class and another great lyric (not to mention catchy as hell chorus).
If I Can't Change Your Heart sees Ted really putting it all on the line with a powerful vocal that really gets your attention and is wonderfully used as a reprise to close the album – in even more haunting style. Other ballads include the acoustic More Than Goodbye and the old-school passion filled Where It Ends. One of my favourite Poley ballads right here.
|Jaded Heart Sinister Mind||Frontiers Records|
German rockers Jaded Heart survived the loss of one of their integral members in lead vocalist/songwriter Michael Bormann and still delivered a very good album in Helluva Time. Swede Johan Fahlberg proved to be a smart choice as replacement. |
The challenge this time around was just as hard, with long time guitarist Barish Kepic departing. So the Jaded Heart sound was now missing the original lead vocalist and long time guitarist.
Sinister Mind proves that life continues on with the band as they deliver a kick ass record that seems them update their sound for an even harder hitting approach.
I will state that with the departure of Bormann and Kepic, some of that classic Jaded Heart sound has now disappeared. This is more or less a new outfit with traditional links to the old sound, but also a band that presents a new fresh sound more in line with the hunger for heavier approach.
The sound of this album is brilliant. Produced by the band with Chris Laussman and Michael Voss, the sound is attacking, crunchy and riff fueled. Melody still plays an important part – as the harmonies and layered choruses still remain, but guitars dominate this record like no other before it.
The opening rockers Hero and Justice Is Deserved make clear the band's intentions. Great attitude and heavy guitar riffs that only give way for strong chorus melodies. Sinister Mind has an even heavier riff, but is balanced by a change of pace.
The double kick-drum fired See The Light impresses, as does Open Your Eyes and Always On My Mind, which is one of few tracks to use keyboards more prominently.
Heavenly Devotion is a little slow to get started but has a cool chorus.
Not every song is a total winner. I found Going Under, My Eager's Red and a couple more tracks all to be plentiful on riffs, but short on chorus quality.
I had a similar complaint about the last record. Bormann has that ability to turn every line into a hook and that is what the band is still missing.
|House Of Shakira Retoxed||Lion Music|
Swedish rockers House Of Shakira are one of my all-time favourite Scandinavian bands. This is their 5th studio album in the 10 years since their incredible debut. When considering their output, one must give credit to a band that has been very consistent in delivering high quality melodic rock with that quirky edge the guys are famous for.|
The debut is obviously an all-time classic and the album III was also filled with memorable moments. I wasn't so mesmerized by the band's second release – the On The Verge record, but the band's last album First Class was exactly that, so there was a great deal of anticipation for this release.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I find myself struggling with this record, working harder than I would otherwise expect in order to get into the songs.
The band has updated their sound just a little again, tweaking as they do with each record. Retoxed is a heavier and somewhat more direct record than some of the band's earlier more pompous efforts, and perhaps the old doesn't mix with the new as well as it should. Something doesn't quite gel here and it isn't one thing I can single out easily.
In part it is the updated style and in part it comes down to the songs themselves.
While I wouldn't like to fault the quality of the production on the album – as the record sounds as sharp and snappy as ever – there is something missing there also. The rawer and harder sound is fine, but at times a few songs feel as if they are half a step behind the tempo they should be.
Some of the pizzazz – or the aura if you like – the magic that drives this band is missing. To my ears at least.
After a brief acapella intro, the band gets off to a flyer with the fairly traditional HOS pomp anthem that is Small Town. The classic elements of layered choruses and big vocals will remind fans of the best parts of the debut and their career since.
Third song in No Faith signals a left turn and for it to come so early in the album points to a change of thinking from the guys. The heavier, crunchier and dare I say more contemporary number has a big sound and big riff, but leaves me cold come chorus time.
Crazy But No Fool is far more familiar fare for the band, but again, there just seems as if there is something missing. I love the chorus though…it just could have been even bigger.
Life And Death has a familiar chorus vibe and you have to love those harmonies, but the verse leaves me cold. Same goes for Gabon Viper and even worse with High Above, which I think plods along and delivers a totally forgettable chorus.
The acoustic flavoured Red Alert is much better. The chorus is certainly a high point for the album and this song seems to retain the best elements of the band I love.
Bloodline has another layered chorus full of harmonies but the pace is again fairly laid back and I don't overly like the Zeppelin inspired verse.
I don't like the verse within Angel Dancer either. The slightly alternative vibe doesn't work for me and the chorus is….well, bizarrely annoying and infectiously catchy at the same time.
The slower and darker Turkish Nights closes out the album. A nice rock ballad with plenty of layers, with the overall tempo matching that of the rest of the album.
I adore 3 of the band's 5 studio albums…I will have to stick to that, as on this occasion I must admit to being disappointed, despite the intelligent use of varied instrumentation and the band's always unique style. This scene needs bands like House Of Shakira – we need diversity within the ranks, but I don't think the right decisions have been made this time around and I don't think the song quality is as strong as on past efforts.
|Gary Hughes Veritas||Frontiers Records|
It is amazing how many times I preface a review by stating that I am a fan of the artist in question. But that's why I am here still taking about music – I am a fan and of so many of these great artists. That's why writing some of these reviews is so hard. I know the efforts and the talent that goes into making a record. It is not an easy task and now one that no longer really carries any financial reward for the artists. I guess it is a labor of love for them also. |
Many don't get British AOR mainstay Gary Hughes, but I do. It was in fact his last solo album Precious Ones that finally converted me. In that I album I heard the passion and warmth that some stated his work with Ten was missing. I loved that record and remained a Ten fan from that point onwards. And I remain a fan despite the very sub-par re-recorded Ten 'best of' release that caused a great deal of fuss among the fanbase and the fact we have to wait so long between releases.
Veritas unfortunately suffers from the same problems addressed in recent Ten reviews. It suffers from varied sound quality, which ranges from average to downright muddy and nearly unlistenable and then there is the issue over song quality, which is also quite varied.
And despite the player credits on the sleeve, I get the feeling much of the record is of Gary's own doing, including a lot of drum programming – something that was heavily criticized on the Ten re-recordings.
The style of this record is not as closely aligned the AOR/ballad friendly work on Precious Ones, but rather a more uptempo mix of that record and the music of early Ten records.
You get the classic Gary Hughes layered AOR of Veritas, See Love Through My Eyes, All I Want Is You and the lush ballad Wide Awake In Dreamland, which is one of the better sounding tracks. In My Head is very moody but equally muddy, so impact is lost and Time To Pray is unlistenable. The song is a complete mess - the mix is shabby and the structure is almost non-existent. I Know It's Time isn't much better despite featuring a cool pop hook.
You also get a couple of truly strange moments intertwined throughout the record. For some reason Gary thinks he can be Billy Idol singing a pop ballad on I Pray For You and then there is the strange melody of Synchronicity. It has a decent verse, a strange verse/melody and is way too long in over 8 minutes in length.
Strange features an awful bit of programming an even worse chorus and continues on with the muddy sound.
Outside help can be used to great effect and with little (if any) extra cost if some of these artists so chose.
|Road To Ruin Road To Ruin||Metal Heaven|
Matti Alfonzetti is one of the most underrated vocalists within the European melodic rock scene. A diverse performer with a wonderful tone, his two Alfonzetti albums are highly regarded by myself, but sadly the modern direction taken by the sophomore release killed off the momentum garnered by the debut which featured a more anthemic AOR style.|
The former Jagged Edge frontman hasn't made nearly enough records, so a new project is always met with enthusiasm from me.
Road To Ruin is Matti's current project, together with Lion's Share guitarist Lars Chriss. A promised move back towards classic hard rock is delivered – this record has a solid sound and a more traditional approach paying tribute to the classic rock sound of the 70s and some great vocals (as expected). I'm still not sold on the record as a whole, despite mostly positive sentiments coming from the fan base so far.
While I am really digging 4 or 5 tunes, a few others lack a better chorus and the overall pacing of the album is a little too similar. The record features only 9 tracks so there is no room for fillers. The majority of these songs are all of a very similar pace.
The opening rocker The Only One gets things off to a flying start and is my pick for best track on the album. Things are looking up. But the plodding Led Zeppelin inspired pace of the second track Pale Rider, and the lack of a big chorus gave me cause for concern.
Only 2 tracks feature a different tempo – the opening track and the frantic rocker Walk The Line, which is another highlight.
Other highlights are Pleasure And Pain and the slow retro groove of the closing track Until I See The Sun.
|Winger Live||Frontiers Records|
Live records are all about catering for fans, so it is only the quality of the record which is of any importance to report on, as fans already know the tunes and let's face it – few outsiders in this day and age start off by purchasing a live record from any given band.|
Winger fans will be pleased to hear that the imaginatively titled Live record is a good tribute to the American band's catalogue and represents all facets of their career well here, including the recent album IV.
Covering 15 tracks over 2 CDs with a couple of solos (guitar and drum) for the absolute die-hards, the album features all the favourites including Easy Come Easy Go, Madalaine, Can't Get Enough, Miles Away and Headed For A Heartbreak from the early years and Blind Revolution Mad, Down Incognito and Who's The One from the classic Pull record.
The new album is well represented, although the song Generica is still a strange one to hear live. Your Great Escape works well as does Right Up Ahead. At times I think the band digs playing the newer material more than the classic, but there is no doubt all songs are paid respect.
The sound of the four guys playing together really fills up the CD. These four particular guys sound like 6 in any other band and you don't necessarily miss the extra overdubs and keyboards of the studio versions.
|Human Zoo Over The Horizon||AOR Heaven|
Not expecting anything leads me to be pleasantly surprised by this German melodic hard rock outfit. Produced by Dennis Ward, it is the sharp and even mix and the punchy Gotthard like sound that first gets your attention, followed shortly thereafter by the raspy melodic tone of vocalist Thomas Seeburger.|
As we have learnt, production and style doesn't make a winning album alone, so it is pleasing to witness an album of fairly strong songwriting in place.
I can't say every track blows me away, but opening rocker Cryin' and Communicate both offer plenty to like and some strong choruses that bands with a lot more experience haven't done as well.
There is a definite Gotthard vibe to them – I guess any European band of this style with a raspy lead vocal will draw similar comparisons now that the Swiss rockers are the band to beat. I can hear some early Jaded Heart too – or is that just the German rock sound?
The band dive into big ballad territory very successfully with Be The One, which reminds me this time of of Bad Habit.
The crunchy by clichéd Rock Your Town and Hit The Rock both work as does the keyboard fused Creatures Of The Night.
The acoustic ballad (a la Scorpions) Endless Road closes the album in a satisfactory way.
|Vengeance Same/Same...But Different - Alive||Metal Heaven|
Repeat what I said about live albums from the Winger review. This time it is Vengeance fans that are being catered for. This is a somewhat rawer and rougher live record and sounds as if it could be straight off the mixing desk.|
I don't particularily like the drum sound on this recording, but overall, the band delivers a set with attitude and energy and that's about all you could ask for.
The 10 track set isn't long enough for a full price release – so consideration for some extra bonus material might have been beneficial to sales.
I do like the band's cover of the classic Rose Tattoo track Bad Boy For Love, but otherwise it is fans only for this one.
|Primal Fear New Religion||Frontiers Records|
There has been quite a bit of hype for the new Primal Fear album in advance of its release. The reason why was evident after one listen. This is a very fine European melodic metal release and among the best heavy releases of 2007.|
The band has been going since 1998, but this album seems to be a rebirth for the guys.
The direction change is subtle, with most of the new style coming via more intense musical arrangements, a blockbuster production sound and shift towards a more dramatic symphonic influenced sound.
If I recall correctly, Primal Fear was a side project started by bassist/producer/songwriter Mat Sinner, outside from his band Sinner.
But the band increased its fanbase with each release and it is now clear that Primal Fear kick Sinner's ass – especially when comparing each band's most recent releases.
This is a really intense and moody metal record and I love it. It really surprised me – there are some quality songs featured here that are good enough and commercial enough to have an impact on radio and elsewhere given the chance.
Opening the album is a fairly traditional sounding Primal Fear song, Sign Of Fear. The biting energy and the lead vocal that is a rasp-turn-scream ensures things start with a bang.
The tempo increases as does the intensity for the blistering and ferocious Face The Emptiness, which features a really melodic lead vocal and vast musical depth.
A moody ballad comes next in Everytime It Rains. Again there is a symphonic quality to the song and depth in the layers of instrumentation and another very powerful vocal. The song is a duet with Simone Simons (Epica) and delivers big time. A potential commercial hit song which could go places.
New Religion reverts back to the traditional metal scream of the opening track and gives fans the best of both worlds. Another strong chorus too.
Fighting The Darkness is simply magnificent. Not only one of the very best metal tunes of 2007 so far, one of the best songs of the year…period. This super intense ballad plays out over 3 parts and nearly 9 minutes. Soaring vocals, powerful symphonic keyboards swirling around as well as heavy guitar riffs and even piano. Perfect!
Blood On Your Hands is another straight forward screamer and The Curse Of Sharon sounds little Maiden-esque.
Too Much Time has a frantic double kick drum beat but a surprisingly melodic and catchy chorus.
Psycho catches my attention each and every time. A driving riff and a gruff vocal guide the song through a steady pace before a melodic bridge kicks in followed by a classic 80s wailing vocal for the chorus.
World On Fire is another of the more traditional sounding songs on the album, but yet again it features a driving beat, but a set of very melodic vocals and hooks.
The Man (That I Don't Know) is a slow to mid-tempo metal ballad to round out the album. Another very fine vocal and within the song is more swirling keyboards complete a very cool album.
|Heartland Mind Your Head||Escape Music|
Heartland is a band that I have loved from their debut album in 1991. Few bands in this genre can boast making it as far as 10 studio albums. Such an achievement should be met with more applause than Heartland is likely to get. It truly is a remarkable feat.|
Not every album the band has released has been a classic and I think it is fair to say that the band have seldom deviated from a set path and don't disappoint true fans.
There is a certain familiarity in putting on a new Heartland record. You know already what to expect and without fail the band deliver.
More than once I have called upon the band to place more emphasis on their choruses, as sound and performance wise you couldn't ask for more.
My interest in the band (and I love Chris Ousey's voice) was beginning to wane when the last studio album Move On was released. It completely bowled me over – bigger choruses than ever and a tougher more guitar fueled approach.
It was so good it rated as one of 2005's best albums.
No surprise then that the band continues the path set by that release. Mind Your Head has a similar crunch factor featuring more high-octane guitars and the same rocked up approach as its predecessor.
There are a few tremendously good songs within this album but I must say that overall, the songs here are not as catchy as Move On and once again I find that the guys are repeating themselves and the songs do tend to sound too similar.
They once again, are in need of bigger and better choruses.
But that said – the album still sounds perfectly recorded and the sound is crystal clear and in your face.
Magazine is a urgent and rocking opener I like a lot, but For Pity's Sake is the song that delivers the knock out. Quite simply an outstanding song with a monster chorus that will find itself in the Best Of 2007 lists I'm sure.
Frozen Hearted and Last Man To Fall are both urgent rockers with solid guitar lines but could have benefited further with bigger choruses that stand out from the texture of the rest of the song.
As far as ballads go, Heartland never disappoints and the soft and moody A Fathom I Fell is excellent. I would have liked another ballad or two on the album.
A Richer Vein is a good track and leads into another highlight for me - Run For Your Life has more spark and a cool chorus.
Time To Believe continues a solid run of songs late in the album. A bigger chorus would again be cool, but the groove here is pretty infectious.
The Best Is Yet To Come closes out the album, continuing the uptempo statement of the album as a whole. The double kick drum beat through the chorus is something different.
|Dennis DeYoung One Hundred Years From Now||DEP / Universal|
Dennis DeYoung's solo rebirth over the last few years comes to a climax with the release of his first proper new studio album since 1988.|
What's even more noteworthy is the style of the record. On each previous solo outing, DeYoung has avoided the blueprint sound that made him and Styx rock legends.
But on this occasion a change of heart.
One Hundred Years From Now channels the very best of the DeYoung spirit and energy through it. It really does gather all Dennis' influences over the years and all play a part here – making this a very special record indeed.
From the classic pomp rock of Styx, complete with the exaggerated arrangements and layered harmonies; to the sentimental ballads and even a couple of more aggressive rockers – this album has it all and even features a nod of the head to Dennis's love of theater.
The record features an organic sound, simple in structure, yet complex in arrangement. And Dennis DeYoung sounds in absolutely marvelous voice.
The album really is a pleasure to listen to. Easy listening without being bland or safe.
For this Canadian release (the US release is due early next year), DeYoung kicks off the album in a duet with French singer Eric Lapointe, a song that works so well due to the contrasting nature of the two singers. The 'gruff' and the 'smooth' as it is.
You get old school Styx pomp in the form of This Time Next Year and keeping the tempo rolling, swirling keyboards and a urgent beat take over on Rain.
On a more sentimental note you have the pop ballad Save Me, with a great chorus and the harmony vocals of Kevin Chalfant; followed by the slower old school pop of Breath Again.
The trio of slower tracks is rounded out by the reflective and classy Crossing The Rubicon. Respect Me is a darker and moodier track with more great Chalfant supplied harmonies.
Turning the mood on its head, the happy go lucky pop rocker I Believe In You is a cool contrast.
Forgiveness holds the listener in suspense with its mood and tempo changes before the album turns to a double dose of rock to close proceedings out.
The lyrical content of I Don't Believe In Anything is just perfect for this day and age. And the delivery itself is flawless. I love this song.
Turn Off CNN sees Dennis rocking it up like he hasn't done in years. Another good fire-in-the-belly style track with lyrical bite and some rocking guitar and piano riffs to back it up.
|Jorn Live In America||Frontiers Records|
Jorn continued his solo flight with an appearance at the prestigious Prog Power Festival in the USA last year. It was captured for this CD release. Promoting his covers release and including the best of his solo catalogue to date, Jorn and band rip through a 75 minute set, which has been spread over 2 Discs for this release.|
Rounding out the set are the studio bonus tracks – Out To Every Nation (2007 Version); the cover Lonely Is The Word/Letters From Earth and the previous bonus track Sacrificial Feelings. All good bonuses and nice additions for collectors. But the main reason we are here is the live album.
The band kick serious ass (as expected), but the revelation here is the huge sound. I've seen Jorn live, and his sound is not something I would say is easy to capture.
But this recording is a really even mix and just bursts through the speakers with every beat.
When Jorn is belting out the tunes, the recording packs a powerful punch. But there is a couple of lulls in proceedings too.
Personal favourites from the set list include a rhythm heavy Blacksong; the covers Are You Ready and Cold Sweat; and you can't ever go past Jorn doing David Coverdale – the Whitesnake medley is killer.
But…and there always seems to be at least one "but" with each Jorn release. Yes, this release covers the complete live set by Jorn at Prog Power, but the solos are a big fat yawn.
I pay to hear Jorn the singer…not 10 minutes plus of soloing by various band members. The drum solo runs 5 minutes and 2 separate guitar solos take up another 5 minutes.
These solos really kill the flow of the album and I dare say the liver performance on the night also.
Another 3 songs could have been included in his live set…how much cooler would that have been?
|Jet Trail Edge Of Existence||Escape Music|
I don't know anything of this band and went in with zero expectations. Quite often a good thing I find, as then you can get surprised. This is one of those times…this is quite the kick ass record.
These guys are yet another find from Sweden and are fronted by the gal with gusto - Carolina Lindwall. |
Mixed and mastered by the expert Martin Kronlund, this album features a big sound with Carolina's vocals front and center.
You also have a double tie in to Grand Illusion, which drummer Christian Sundell on board and the man behind Promotion – the band Grand Illusion formed out of – Jon Stavert, is responsible for guitars, synth and more.
The band has that European melodic hard rock feel, with a little Robin Beck (but heavier) in there and some diversity in the songwriting.
In places it rocks with class (War Zone, Never Say Never); at times it is more melodic rock (Can You Hear Me Calling is a very fine rocker indeed with a smooth chorus and good harmonies too) and then there is the acoustic Gorham's Cave.
There are a few tracks that don't work for me at all - Holy Ground doesn't have any decent hook and a few other songs could use better choruses.
The Unknown is much the same – too dark and modern without any strong hooks.
But for a debut album, the band shows true promise and they have a style of hard rock that works right now. The latter half of the album is not as strong as the first half, but that first half really impressed me.
|Paul Sabu Strange Messiah||AOR Heaven|
Paul Sabu is a talented singer/songwriter/producer who started strongly with a couple of acclaimed melodic hard rock releases and then achieved cult status with an AOR release that remains to this day a genuine classic – the debut Only Child record.|
From that point though, his star diminished somewhat as he attempted to recapture the glory of that Only Child record on occasion and at the other end of the scale, recorded a few albums of European melodic metal with varied results.
I love the guy's songwriting and I remain a big fan of his voice, but the reality is that I only ever listen to that one Only Child release.
And once I finish reviewing this new solo album, I will no doubt once again return to Only Child!
Strange Messiah is a pretty decent release though. He brings in an outside producer for the maybe the first time ever. Michael Voss knows how to capture an artist at their best and this record is no exception – featuring Voss' usual crunchy sound.
Sabu's voice isn't what it used to be – the rasp factor has increased over the years and he does tend to shout as much as he sings and that also effects how enjoyable the songs are overall. He used to have a great Hagar-esque rasp, but it is the rasp that now dominates. The vocal on Jack Of All Trades for instance is pretty awful. But again, the Voss element and Sabu's songwriting insures that there are plenty of melodies here.
Dangerous Behaviour is a good example of rocking verse and a more melodic chorus. Fight To Die is another more melodic track and I like the groove of Hey Look (But Don't Touch).
The melodic metal element is still the main influence over this record – Strange Messiah, Headbangers and Rock Your World being the best tracks.
Blow By Blow is about as close to AC/DC as you'll get.
Perhaps the best thing about this album though is the sound – Voss has done a great job as always and the all-star European rock line up of Matthias Rethmann (b, Lee Z), Ralf Heyne (lead g., Biss), Thorsten Koehne (lead g., Demon Drive), Angel G.Schleifer (lead g., Bonfire, Pretty Maids) all turn in strong performances.
Great production and ok songs, but overall I can't rate the whole disc quite as highly.
|The Lec Zorn Project It Began In The Underground||Indie|
The long awaited Lec Zorn opus finally sees the light of day. I can't help but think Lec left this album too long to release, as the state of the music business now vs what it was 3 or 4 years ago when this album was still being polished, is vast.
I know a lot of time and money was spent on the release, so there will need to be an element of luck to recoup, as talent and quality alone just aren't enough these days.
This is one of those love it or hate it albums. Fortunately I think we are in the right place to talk about this album and AOR fans of this site are going to love it – as it really does represent the music that this site was founded upon.
It also features some of the great names within this scene over the last 10 years – Mike Walsh, Eli Hludzik, Tracy White, Michael Riesenbeck, Phil Vincent, Eric Ragno, Chris Demming and yes, of course Tommy Denander.
There is nothing ground breaking, new or original about this release, but I don't think anyone is going to get hung up about that. It is the retro sound that will have AOR fans excited.
The Lec Zorn Project features the very best elements of an era past. This album is so 80s that even some of my LPs from the 80s are jealous.
The production here is ok – it is an indie – but a pretty fair sound given the budget available.
Keyboards rule the day and a few privileges have been taken with the songwriting. There are several references to the music of Survivor – a couple very obvious ones – Caught In The Game anyone?
If you like the Vital Signs record, safe to say you'll appreciate this too.
I'm not a huge fan of changing vocalists through a record, but the 4 used here are of a similar mold, so consistency is thankfully not an issue.
Tracy White of Shotgun Symphony is the most used vocalist – on 6 tracks and it is those that I like the very best. Shotgun fans will definitely appreciate his contributions.
Second Chance is a song featured twice, once with vocalist Pierre Wensberg and once with Phil Vincent. With the awesome Wensberg version featured early in the record I am not sure why a repeat was necessary.
Elsewhere there really is some 80s synth/AOR gems on here – one cannot under value the songwriting for this album, it really does pay tribute to the style and genre.
The Rush Of Passions Fire, You Keep Me In The Dark, Second Chance and Starting All Over Again are instantly catchy and extremely memorable.
You also get the required overblown grand into, a prog tinged instrumental and a very loyal to the original Kansas cover of Play The Game Tonight.
Above all else – this is a well written and extremely enjoyable release. A guilty pleasure perhaps, but one that many AOR should appreciate. The packaging/presentation isn't much to talk about, but the contents of the CD is. Welcome to the year 1984.
|Reviews In Brief|
Gary Moore – Close As You Get (Eagle Records ER20112-2) 80%
It's a Gary Moore record. Period. Ok, I'll elaborate just a little. If you have heard any Moore record since his change of direction breakthrough Still Got The Blues release, then you have already heard this. As good as ever, Moore continues on his blues rock path, at times slowing it down to a moody crawl, while elsewhere rocking things up in that BB King kinda way. The kid can play, there is no doubt and this is finely produced, so long time fans of his blues direction will enjoy, others will continue to not care.
Nocturnal Rites – The 8th Sin (Century Media) 90%
This is my first Nocturnal Rites CD. Over the course of 7 other albums, I seemed to have missed them along the way. But I know I am not alone in that, so here's my recommendation to those also unfamiliar – check these guys out! The name sounds heavier than they really are. What we have here is some classy Nordic melodic metal, no heavier than Masterplan or the like – I can even hear a little modern day Gotthard in there; these guys mix swirling keyboards and bombastic riffs with some very likeable vocals and importantly – great melodies and memorable chorus hooks. Track two Never Again – stand out stuff and the heavy intensity of Not The Only…very cool also.
American Dog – Hard (Bad Reputation) 68%
American sleaze rock with a blues edge and that sense of party party party. I have heard it done better and if I remember correctly, done better by these guys themselves on their last studio album. This is very loose, very raw and very old school cock rock with that southern blues edge. Good uptempo party vibe going on here, but a little raw and overall, I have heard it al before.
Diamond Head – What's In Your Head (Cargo Records) 83%
I asked this very question after I heard the last Diamond Head album All Will Be Revealed. Horrible. But the guys redeem themselves here with a more consistent and credible album. The band sticks to the classic metal meets Led Zeppelin sound of the last release, but sonically this sounds infinitely better and the songs are more consistent and certainly more enjoyable. I'm not a fan of the direction, but this is definitely a big improvement.
Iron Horse – Change My Religion (Indie) 75%
I like these guys and I dig their new singer. But they continue to sell themselves short with a hollow sound and sonically raw production. The guitars lack power and the rhythm section sounds tinny to say the least. The bright spot is new singer Charlie Wayne. His raspy Shark Island style vocal suits the change of direction here – the band head back towards straight ahead American rock n roll. There are some instances of southern rock, acoustic and country moments here, but the best songs are those with a little rockin' attitude. Get a Grade A production lined up for the next album and we'll have a real winner I'm sure.
Halford – Metal God – Essentials Volume 1 (Frontiers, Indie, Riot…) 90%
Rob Halford has turned his solo career into a legend in itself and has taken full control over his music. So much so that every single country has its own distribution deal for this compilation CD/DVD. Frontiers has Europe, but different deals are in place for USA, Japan, Canada, Australia etc. The disc itself - well, you can't argue with the Metal God can you? A couple of unreleased tunes and a remix will bring in the die-hards and for others, this is a great place to start to see how it is and should be done….by the man himself. The bonus DVD features clips and a couple of Behind The Scenes spots. All round good value I say.
Taylor Mills – Lullagoodbye (Indie/Aqua Pulse Records 2322) 86%
Taylor has a very strong voice and in a pop world dominated by sound-alike singers, she sounds pretty unique to me. Her pop/rock southern themed record is an easy listening affair, with equal mix electric and acoustic guitars along with a country tinge at times. Guest appearances by husband, producer and Styx drummer Todd Suchermann; Tommy Shaw and Brian Wilson (who she sings backgrounds for) spice up an already enjoyable affair. Laid back, but lush in its musical arrangements, this is a mature pop rock record for those that can appreciate the fine art of record making and a sultry female lead.
Manitou – No Signs Of Wisdom (Metal Heaven 00038) 78%
I missed reviewing this back in July when it was released. Solid European melodic metal is my quick summation. Lots of riffing and plenty of fast, enjoyable solos too. Vocal wise and in some regard also musically, the guys are close to Bruce Dickinson/Iron Maiden in their style. It is a solid and enjoyable release – my only problem is that in a crowded metal market, there probably isn't a lot here to distinguish the guys from several other bands doing the same thing.
Tribuzy – Execution – Live Reunion (MTM Music) 70%
Interesting concept – gather the original line up of a studio album from 2005 to do a live reunion with special guests. Those guests include Bruce Dickinson, Roland Grapow and Mat Sinner among others, so there is name value to get metal head attention here. Lots of guitars and then more guitars and all of it accompanied by screaming vocals straight out of 1985. The sound is a little too hollow and hard on my ears to truly appreciate, but fans of the original studio release should appreciate.
Deep Purple – Live At Monteux (Eagle Records 20113-2) 75%
I have appreciated this band for a long time, many line-ups and in particular the awesome Purpendicular release by the current line up. Rapture Of The Deep was pretty good too. I'm not huge on this live release though. The audio quality just isn't as good as I would like and I think perhaps Ian Gillan has had better nights. Performances are still incredibly energetic for a band that have been on the road for so long, but the combination of sound quality and track listing makes this less than essential. I much prefer the Nobody's Perfect release. The accompanying DVD on the other hand is chock full of extras and excellent all-round value. I'll try and get a review of that done.
Altaria – Divine Intervention (Metal Heaven 00034) 85%
This fine Finnish metal outfit has been around long enough now for a compilation album? Well not really, but that doesn't make this an unworthy collection. Two albums to date (featuring 2 different vocalists) are represented by the first 10 tracks, then there are two brand new tracks (featuring singer #3!) which I thought sounded pretty good. Fans will I imagine fine good value in it as the disc then features 7 additional demo tracks from 2001 and 2002. They aren't the first band to put out a stop gap release, but at least there is some value for fans within this one.
Myon – Frame Works (Indie/Supersounds Music SMXCD2) 77%
Myon's first album appeared on the Escape Music label. They are now out on their own, continuing to deliver their own special brand of Finish progressive pomp pop/metal. That's quite a mouthful, but how else to describe such a release? I don't think this is an easy release to appreciate, but with time you get to know the songs better. Not overly commercial in its appeal or song structure, this one is better road tested first.
Saxon – The Inner Sanctum (SPV 95922 CD) 88%
There's life in the old dog yet! Saxon is one of the Godfather's of British metal and recent output hasn't left a trail of excited fans behind them. This release however has managed to ignite a spark in many old fans. One of the band's heaviest releases in years is also one of their very best. Relying on what they are best known for – brutal riffing and Biff Byford's unmistakable high end rasp – the band have crafted some memorable metal songs here and it is all wrapped up in a great sounding package.
Symphony X – Paradise Lost (Inside Out) 90%
Another great melodic metal album, more emphasis on the metal than the melodic. Symphony X features vocalist Russell Allen (Allen/Lande), but in his natural environment, Allen is a far more abrasive singer and really delivers a full assault of the senses with his vocals here. I prefer his smoother persona, but no one can argue that this isn't a very powerful metal album with a big progressive element also in play. Set The World On Fire is a cool metal anthem and other highlights include the prog laced Domination; the emotional power vocal of Paradise Lost; and the closer Revelation. Big powerful symphonic prog metal…just what sells these days.
Consortium Project IV – Children Of Tomorrow (Metal Heaven 00039) 83%
If dark and heavy with lashes of symphonic and gothic European metal do it for you, then this will be right up your alley. Following on from past Consortium Project releases, Ian Parry turns up the heaviness once again and delivers a very modern sounding metal album. It is a very intense record and there is a lot of music here to appreciate. For me the record is a little one paced and the intensity can be a little too much at times, but there is no doubt Parry has created a record that will cater to his established fanbase.
Redlist – Redlist (Indie) 89%
This is one of those releases to test those fans that pledge devotion to an artist no matter what. Jeff Scott Soto recorded this album as an indie project several years ago with musical partners on this occasion being New York producers Neil Goldberg & Dave Fraser. Redlist is modern nu-metal, including rap vocals, filtered effects filled vocals, programmed beats and loops. It isn't an easy listen – it challenges fans and it's a long long way from Prism! But at the same time, the JSS charisma makes it cool. Jeff has a swagger in his stride as he belts out these rhymes and the album isn't devoid of melodies and hooks. One for the open minded and those that aren't faint of heart.
Damage Control – Damage Control (Cargo Records) 85%
This classic rock all-star line up features Spike (vocals, Quireboys); Chris Slade (drums, Uriah Heep, AC/DC); Pete Way (guitar, UFO) and Robin George (guitars, vocals). Quite an array of British rock royalty there…and together they turn to their blues rock roots for an enjoyable album of material mainly penned by George. The production is very raw and the whiskey soaked rasp of vocalist Spike is most definitely an acquired taste. There is definitely a Robin George vibe in the songwriting, but the blues tone of the album is true to the backgrounds of all involved. Most times this is up and rocking, other times, slow and steady, but always bluesy. To be honest, some good songs and very authentic, but production quality is a major issue.
Civilization One – Revolution Rising (Metal Heaven 00036) 87%
This June release may have escaped the attention of some, but it is never too late to dive in. This is a more traditional old school melodic metal album from a band that comprises of musicians gathered from Sri Lanka, Italy, France, and Brazil. Quite a mix, but the guys work well together. This is a pretty consistent European metal album with some strong songs and good melodies to be found in amongst the riffing and ultra-speed drumming. Production is solid also, making this one of the more impressive metal debuts of the year.
|David Readman David Readman||Frontiers Records|
Vocalist David Readman storms back for album number 2 of 2007 – the first being the impressive high energy Pink Cream 69 opus In10sity, delivered earlier in the year.|
David's first solo album doesn't stray far from the PC69 formula – uptempo, guitar fuelled melodic hard rock, with a keen sense of melody and of course, that great voice.
David's solo debut is a mix of the PC69 sound embodied on the most recent record mixed with a little more of the traditional English melodic hard rock feel, with some hints of David Coverdale/Whitesnake in there as well as a perhaps an even more melodic thread running through the tunes, a la heavier Dare.
In some ways, this is classic melodic rock, as the songs lend themselves to an emotional theme and are almost balladesque in their structure and sense of melody, yet for the most part, they are all uptempo tracks, rocking along at a fair pace.
When David deviates from this path on a couple of occasions, he loses me a little. Evil Combination and No Peace For The Wicked have a harder and more aggressive intent, but don't appeal as much.
But the anthemic opener Without You; the passionately moody Take These Tears and the commercial melodic rocker Don't Let It Slip Away are all utterly brilliant.
More moody Whitesnake beckons with Gentle Touch and Long Way To Heaven is another great AOR track.
The album closes strongly with the only slow ballad of the album Love In Vain, which has a rich appealing chorus.
|Great White Back To The Rhythm||Frontiers Records|
Great White return to their best known line-up and deliver their first new studio album since 1999's Can't Get There From Here release.|
The band quickly slide into a familiar groove, there appears to be no time lost at all as the band sound as tight and as familiar as they always have.
The same bluesy groove and the same authentic rock n roll spirit is evident from the opening bars of the bar room boogie of Back To The Rhythm.
It continues throughout the album, but in a very laid back and easy going manner. The band sounds exactly as they always have and there is a definite comfort in that familiarity.
But whether it be age or the fact the band hasn't toured together for a while to build momentum, this is a more laid back and mature Great White in action.
The rockers are largely restrained and mid-tempo in pace and the album features several of those classic laid back Great White blues ballads and some acoustic driven tracks.
The quality of songwriting and individual performances on Back To The Rhythm are unquestionably strong. It's authentic Great White – each and every note. Jack Blades co-writes on a few songs and Eric Martin lends a hand on backing vocals.
But not all the songs catch my attention and the overall pace and lack of any hard edge riffs certainly makes this a mood dependant record.
I can play both Once Bitten and Twice Shy any time of the day, any day of the week. This album will be more of a mood piece – just as impressive, but perhaps more of a late night or early morning record to relax with.
Highlights from the album include the groovy opening track; the mature blues rock of Here Goes My Head Again; Play On is classic Great White and could find itself on just about any of their records; the sentimental I'm Alive and How Far Is Heaven; and the acoustic driven ballad Just Yesterday.
|Circus Maximus Isolate||Frontiers Records|
Norway's answer to Dream Theater return with their second opus, once again delivering progressive melodic metal that is high on energy, big on melody and fast on riffs.
Delivering a far more accessible album than Dream Theater themselves turned in a few months ago, these guys demand attention.|
The end result may not be groundbreaking, but it is highly rewarding to the listener.
Mixing the vocals of Tony Harnell and James LaBrie with the musical power of Europe, Dream Theater and TNT, Circus Maximus are simply one of the better progressive metal outfits in the market place.
The production on this album is major label quality – it is sonically bombastic, powerful and in your face at all times.
Progression requires precision and every instrument can be heard clearly here, with the vocals of Michael Eriksen soaring over everything.
A Darkened Mind gets the album off to a flying start with a monster vocal and flailing guitars and keyboards, but it is Abyss that knocks this album out of the park. It features truly intense drumming, changing melodies and a bridge/chorus arrangement that maximizes the melodic hooks.
In fact the first three songs of the album are really all entwined together and are over before you know it. Some listening is required to separate the melodies from each track, but they really do deliver.
Following on, Sane No More is a true progressive instrumental to break the album up a little before another gloriously melodic song in Arrival Of Love delivers another great power hook.
The big metal ballad Zero is another circuit breaker before the second half of the album kicks in with the 12 minute epic Mouth Of Madness.
From Childhood's Hour is initially mellow before getting intense and the album closes with another epic - the 9 minute metal intensity of Ultimate Sacrifice.
|The Hooters Time Stand Still||Indie|
I challenge anyone to say they love The Hooters more than I do! These guys are one of my all-time favourites and have been that way since their major label debut in 1985.|
They have always been an intelligent, honest and passionate band and the infectious nature of their songwriting is only enhanced by the complexities that lie underneath the surface.
I love Nervous Night, but the band's killer albums for me were the amazing One Way Home and the earthy rock style of Out Of Body. Every track a classic.
And The Hooters Live is one of the best live albums I own.
That said, I haven't always loved every single song on every single record. I thought Zig Zag was a little patchy and is my least favourite album from the band.
That is, until now. That sounds pretty harsh – it's not meant to be – but if I rated all the band's albums this would have to slot in last position as despite some moments of pure brilliance, it otherwise remains a little patchy and doesn't have the energy or the urgency of past Hooters records.
It still remains a good record. I'm just judging it a little harder based on my long time passion for the band. In fact style, production and consistency wise, it I think compares to the Zig Zag record. Time Stand Still is a fairly varied record – even by Hooters standards. It is as if they have tried to put a little bit of all aspects of the band's musical history back into one record and make up for the fact this record was some 13 years in the making!
The album is very basic as far as production and vibe. It almost has a live in the studio feel and compared to past records is very minimal on the overdubs.
The album features several songs I can't seem to get passionate about. I'm not sure if it is the laid back vibe or the excess role the Celtic influences plays in several tracks.
Funnily enough, neither aspect has bothered me in the past – some of the band's slower and more eclectic tracks have been their most appealing. Graveyard Waltz from One Way Home for example is pure genius. Perhaps I am just not feeling the same passion I am used to from the band. Maybe the album is just to simple - not dark and complex enough?
Among the albums tracks is a moody slowed down cover of the Don Henley classic The Boys Of Summer, which works well; the Celtic influenced acoustic pop of Until I Find You Again, Catch Of The Day and Morning Buzz.
Then Where The Wind May Blow is reminiscent of the rootsy Midwestern sound of Out Of Body and Ordinary Lives is a largely acoustic ballad.
Bonus track White Jeans is a happy go lucky pop jingle.
The true highlights for me include the opening two tracks - the anthemic melodic rock of I'm Alive and Time Stand Still – there are two new instant classics that I simply adore and cannot get enough of.
Then there is the moody and lyrically intense rock ballad Until You Dare, which is all class.
Free Again is one of the albums most intense and likeable songs – building from a soft earthy base into an extended instrumental close that picks up the tempo and gives the guys a little room to jam off each other. I can imagine this song working a treat live.
|Burn Global Warning||Formula One Records|
Simply put, this is one of the best pure British melodic hard rock records to pass across my desk in some time. |
Burn last appeared mid-way through the last decade when the melodic rock scene was truly an underground entity and the Internet was yet to hit mainstream. Their debut album was ok…typical British AOR/hard rock, but it didn't do enough at the time to keep the wheels turning.
It was with some surprise that I heard of a new album from the guys some 10 years later and even bigger a surprise when it turns out to be bloody good stuff!
The production quality of this album blows the debut out of the water. Global Warning has a solid sound with a hard hitting rhythm section at the heart of things.
I'm also really impressed with vocalist Jeff Ogden, who I don't recall as being as fantastic as he sounds here – a really powerful performance with a booming tenor voice.
Shadow Of The Satellites, Forgive Me and Down In Flames are a trio of highlights for 2007 – powerful, melodic and all featuring instantly catchy choruses.
The rest of the album remains solid and very enjoyable, if not quite as instant as those three tracks highlighted – until you hit the hard rocking groove of Weight Of Expectation – another knockout chorus right here folks.
I Don't Mind is very good also, but then Give Me Tonight closes the album in blissful mid-tempo melodic fashion, with layers of guitars and a smooth vocal. This is classic British melodic rock and another highlight of the album.
|Eden's Curse Eden's Curse||AFM Records|
Eden's Curse is a band formed from a partnership forged on this site's very own Noticeboard. What began as some good natured sparring between bassist Paul Logue (Cry Havoc) and vocalist Michael Eden developed into a friendship of mutual respect.|
The pair soon found themselves writing music together, trading song blueprints back and fourth between Logue's Scottish base and Eden in the USA.
A plan developed to create a project that would lay all previous experience in the music business to waste. The guys have spent countless hours working on this band over an extended period of time. No part of the process has been rushed and the best line-up conceivable for the idea on hand was slowly put into place.
That line up is rounded out by star German guitarist Thorsten Koehne (Demon Drive) and fellow countryman Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell) on keyboards, with the band completed with the addition of drummer Pete Newdeck (Steve Grimmett).
The time taken in forming this band and writing this album shows in every aspect of the finished product.
I have been aware of what the guys were trying to achieve and was so impressed by some early mixes of the material, I insisted they make their live debut at the MelodicRockFest show in Indiana. Sadly due to work commitments and the unfortunate geographical spread of the bands members, this couldn't happen, but I remained excited at the prospect of what this album could deliver.
The final master was delivered to me a few months ago now, so in writing this review I have the distinct benefit of having been able to live with this record for some time and in testament to its quality and appeal, I haven't stopped listening to it since.
This is a killer bloody record. This for me, is what it is all about. It is why I get excited about music and it is why I run this site. It is also what leads me to getting speeding fins when cranking this album out on the open road.
I have rarely been witness to a metal album with such melody. At the same time, I also contemplate the last time I heard a melodic rock album with such power.
I really feel this album has something to offer everyone. Power, intricate melodies, virtuoso performances, soaring vocals, some killer choruses and best of all, it has been assembled into a brilliant sounding package.
The songs were already clear winners. So all these guys needed was someone with the ability to bring the best performances out from the individual players and then put it all together. This was the final box that needed ticking to create an album that would stand out amongst all others.
The genius that is producer Dennis Ward should never be understated. This guy knows how to craft that perfect sound and every note on this album is clear and audible thanks to him. You can play this at any volume (although one wonders why you would play it on anything other than 11) and get the same clear, powerful result each time.
The rhythm section of Paul Logue and Pete Newdeck simply steam roll these songs through your ears. Ferdy Doernberg doesn't overstate the keyboards, using them to add layers and melody only when needed.
Then there is guitarist Thorsten Koehne. Where has this guy been? I love the amount of solos that frequent this record! About time! Thorsten delivers a sonic blast of riffing John Skyes would be proud of, then next thing he is pulling it back and doing his best Neal Schon impression for a delicate solo.
And last but by no means least – vocalist Michael Eden, who for me is what makes this album so different and so memorable. I really dig his vocals on this album and seriously think this album could be a platform for us all hearing a lot more from him.
His higher range is a welcome change for melodic metal albums most commonly dominated by vocalists of a lower register.
I love the higher range, but we aren't talking Tony Harnell high here. I think Michael's tone gives these songs an even more melodic and accessible quality. But at the same time, the guy can growl and scream with the best of them and a raspy edge in many of the songs keeps that required power and menace in tact.
Track By Track:
Book Of Life is the (required and suitable) haunting intro to the album, offering promise of what's to follow.
The acoustic intro to Judgement Day hides the power that is about to hit. This is my pick for one of the best songs of the year thus far. This song kicks my ass. I love the riffing, the big solo, and I love the pounding rhythm section. But best of all, I love the highly melodic vocals and the killer harmonies through the song's instantly likable chorus.
Eyes Of The World is the only song not penned by the songwriting nucleus of Logue/Eden with Carsten Schultz (Evidence One). In fact, this is Carsten's song – one which wasn't ever used for Evidence One. And bugger knows why, as it is another great hard rocker with a solid chorus and plenty of riffs to get excited about.
Stronger Than The Flame pulls back on the tempo a little, but still rocks and delivers a massive crunching riff. More harmony vocals fill the chorus or this moody and darker track.
The Voice Inside is the album's only ballad, but the guys make sure it is one you won't forget in a hurry. Intensely personal and equally powerful, this song is perfectly placed within the album. Some emotionally charged vocals and another very strong chorus make this a truly classy ballad. And Torsten's Journey-esque solo is not to be missed.
After The Love Is Gone is another definite ass kicker for me and is another contender for song of the year. This song has everything – power, melody and a rich, harmony filled chorus that delivers crossover appeal for melodic and hard rock fans. It in some ways reminds me of British rockers Ten at their very best.
This is the kind of commercial hard rocker that would chart given any justice in the world. Michael Eden's vocals are a particular highlight – some great higher range notes hit here.
Delivering a one-two knockout blow is the equally impressive, commercial and harmony filled Fly Away. A hard edge riff drives the opening grooves as the song rocks along with some classic keyboard fills. I love the drum parts on there too – some nice touches by Pete Newdeck.
A break from the riffing delivers a bridge, which in turn soars into a great chorus that is hard not to like from the outset.
What Are You Waiting For is a darker and more aggressive track. It isn't one of the more obvious or instant tracks of the album, yet it is one that you'll find yourself humming along to later in the day.
Eden's Curse is another slower moody track and a song that kind of simmers along before reaching a subtle, but harmony filled chorus. This is another track that works perfectly in context with the rest of the album.
It's time for a tempo lift and Don't Bring Me Down does that in classic Axel Rudi Pell style aggression. Double kick drums, swirling keyboards and a tempo to shake the foundations.
Heaven Touch Me touches back on the rocking, but mid-tempo style of Eden's Curse and What Are You Waiting For. A solid album track and dare I say, some hints of Pyromania era Def Leppard with the melodies and harmony vocals here? Very cool…
The Bruce is another short intro that builds with some to Fallen King – a song which never fails to impress me. The build up into the song features another strong vocal and an almighty howl. The riffs follow as pressure builds through a short bridge and then into a chorus which I just love. Stand out harmonies, hooks and best played as loud as possible, this song really isn't that complicated. It is very straight forward, but is very melodic and just done so well that I rate it as another of the album's highlights. Add in another killer solo and we have a winner folks.
The album closes with a cover of the popular rock ballad from the Rock Star movie We All Die Young. Originally sung by Steelheart's Mike Matijevic, now Michael Eden makes it his own. With all the power and emotion of the original and some kick ass performances by all, this cover finishes what has been an outstanding album with a deservedly impressive end.
My favourite record of the year to date and one I have played more than any other this year.
|Kevin Chalfant Fly 2 Freedom||Clique Records|
Kevin Chalfant has a long history with Journey members, starting with his days with The VU (with Prairie Prince & Ross Valory) through to The Storm, which also featured Valory along with Journey alumni Gregg Rolie and Steve Smith (and managed by Herbie Herbert).|
Kevin has crafted a career of well sung, well written AOR with that distinct touch of Journey's classic sound. Naturally that is all helped along by Kevin's naturally Perry-like voice and his ability to nail those high notes.
He's jammed with the Journey guys, been touted as a possible replacement singer and all the while going about his business building a fan base through consistent writing and recording. At what seems a perfectly chosen time, Kevin has decided to directly pay tribute to the songs and music that has influenced him and the many fans that buy his music.
Fly 2 Freedom pays tribute to the music and image of Journey in every way.
The cover art is something a fan would instantly recognize as Journey-esque in nature and the title uses 'Freedom', a word which was at one time touted to be the title of what would become the Raised On Radio record.
At the heart of the record is Kevin's own band, boasting several lead singers within itself.
The one complaint I have had in reviewing Kevin's releases in the past has been production, so it is with enormous pleasure I can report that this album sounds absolutely fantastic.
It is without doubt the best produced record of Kevin's solo/Two Fires career and the best sounding record since the two Storm albums.
His band deliver a great performance, adding their own touches to some classic tunes, but all the while staying true to the songs and in particular, the parts of guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardists Jonathan Cain and before him Gregg Rolie.
An almost impossible task would be narrowing the vast song selection of the Journey catalogue down to the 13 songs chosen for this tribute.
However, Kevin has chosen wisely between the 'must includes' and a few from the fringes.
Don't Stop Believin', Separate Ways, Who's Crying Now, Open Arms and Faithfully could not be left off. I like that a few earlier classics such as Feelin' That Way, Anytime, Where Were You and Just The Same Way have also been included.
Kevin stays very true to the original songs and the way those tracks have been delivered over the years by many before him. But despite that instant familiarity with the songs, it is refreshing to hear Kevin's take.
As a fan of his voice, it is great to hear his subtle nuances and tones on these old favourites. The occasionally rasp mixed with the sweet harmonies required by these tunes is perfect to these ears.
You know the songs – there is little point describing those, but of the album's 13 tracks, what stand out as true highlights?
Separate Ways features an outstanding vocal – a powerful version with all the melodic strength of Kevin's voice in play. The rhythm section has a definite impact too. Who's Crying Now is as smooth as a baby's bum; Faithfully has all the emotion and vulnerability in the vocal that you would hope it would; and Lights is simply stunning.
Lastly - the biggest ballad in rock history Open Arms still manages to send a shiver up my spine thanks to another awesome lead vocal.
I like that Kevin is happy enough to step back a little and allow guitarist Mike Higgins to take lead vocal on a few of the earlier Gregg Rolie sung tracks - Where Were You especially. Kevin shines through with some massive harmonies of course and duel lead vocal lines, but this to me is showing that Kevin and his band are truly paying tribute to the music of Journey rather than this simply being a star vehicle for Kevin.
|Bon Jovi Lost Highway||Island/Def Jam|
Whether you like it or not – this is the stuff of genius. What other band of the 80s continues to reinvent itself – often flying in the face of fan wishes – takes risks and still manages to sell 250k units in it's first week of sales?|
These days everything in the world of Bon Jovi is calculated to the last note. It is this perceived loss of spontaneity that gives their critics the ammunition to lob at them, but credit where credit is due. They survive, they are still out there performing and they are still selling out venues and releasing charting records.
Bon Jovi only just won back a number of fans with the popular and critically acclaimed Have A Nice Day album. Their decision to write and record a new album in Nashville upset many, but what would the result be?
Not as bad as some have made out, but also not everything it could have been nor should have been in the wake of Have A Nice Day.
Whereas Have A Nice Day was a very popular release, I think this one is a definite hot and cold release. You are either going to love it or hate it. And I'm guessing there will be as many in one camp as there will be in the other.
Going back to the issue of how calculated this band is – the track Who Said You Can't Go Home was originally a duet with Keith Urban. Jon Bon Jovi thought he knew better and switched to a female lead from an up and coming Nashville act. He was right and the guys scored a Grammy for the track and opened the door for a potential new audience.
That sniff of a new market was enough for JBJ to pack his bags, fill his car with gas, and pick Richie up on the way to Nashville.
The plan was that the new record would be written in Nashville with an eye for that market, while carrying enough of the classic Bon Jovi sound along for the ride, hoping to still hold the interest of regular fans.
Another calculated and cleaver move was to bring producer of Have A Nice Day John Shanks along and team him with the man on the moment in Nashville – Keith Urban's right hand man Dann Huff (no stranger to this website in his own right).
Lost Highway really is an example of a perfectly executed plan coming together. You get the more modern influences of the last album combining with the country rock style of Keith Urban.
The Nashville influence is entwined into every note of this new record, but in another twist of genius, the album can be as much or as little country as you want it to be.
If you choose to block out this influence, Lost Highway can simply be seen as a more acoustic driven record such as These Days and will appeal to fans of that release. There's also a little Crush in the mix and basically it is just another example of modern day Jovi.
If you want to concentrate on the slide guitar, the string arrangements or the noticeable twang in Jon's voice, then this record can offer something new and fresh for fans.
At the same time, if you can't block out those influences, then this record will simply annoy the shit out of you.
It's unusual to hear the southern twang of banjo's and strings opening a Bon Jovi album, but the happy go lucky buzz of the title track is hard to ignore.
Borrowing from the modern rock styling of Have A Nice Day is the rockers Summertime, Everybody's Broken and the more sentimental themed Any Other Day, which is the pick of the whole album for me.
Trying just a little too hard in the 'down home hokey rocker' category is We Got It Going On, a paring with Nashville's hip duo Big & Rich.
The remainder of the album is unfortunately filled with acoustic driven fluff pieces, which I guess puts me right in the fence as far as the album goes.
There are some sweet songs, but they all have this overtly sweet and nice feel that just doesn't match my desire for Bon Jovi music – they are already the kings of schmaltzy ballads.
These Days for the new millennium or Have A Nice Day for the country set. Take it either way, but you can't argue that the album sounds a million bucks and has once again found this 'never say die' band in the chart topping zone.
|Voices Of Rock MMVII||AOR Heaven|
This is an interesting release and dare I say a wet dream for some considering the vocal talent assembled.|
One would have a hard time arguing the about the project moniker Voices Of Rock. James Christian, Harry Hess, Terry Brock, Johnny Gioeli to name just a few.
To explain – the project was born out of a partnership between German melodic rock mainstays Chris Lausmann (Bonfire, Jaded Heart) and Michael Voss (Mad Max, Casanova).
The duo wrote all the material here and went to work gathering the finest voices possible to represent that material. I think they have done a fine job on both counts.
The musicians featured on the record are Michael Voss - lead guitars, acoustic guitars; Chris Lausmann - guitars, bass, keyboards; Bertram Engel – drums; Angel G. Schleifer - lead guitars and yes, of course once again Tommy Denander - lead guitars.
This is a very commercial record featuring a very accessible set of songs that is going to appeal to a wide base of fans.
Given the nature of the band and the duo responsible for writing the material, there is a certain German/European melodic rock feel to much of the album, but the vocals help give it that worldwide appeal.
A couple of the songs don't quite work as well as I might have anticipated, but the majority fire on all cylinders and there is even room for a couple of surprises.
Specifically to the tracks –
James Christian singing Voodoo Woman is one that doesn't live up to expectation. Not due to the vocal, just the absence of a better hook.
Jean Beauvoir / Wild Thing is nearly perfect for Crown Of Thorns fans and a definite highlight.
Terry Brock / Nightingale is a moody and haunting rock track with a great vocal and driven by the Michael Voss influence.
Dan Reed makes a welcome melodic rock return for the sentimental ballad Over And Done.
Johnny Gioeli / Phoenix Rising is another track that I haven't warmed to and for the same reason as the opening track. Great verse, but missing a chorus hook.
Harry Hess / Irresistible is another highlight. Harry turns in a different style of vocal for this haunting and moody rocker with an extended outro that really works.
Göran Edman / China In Your Hands is once again pure AOR/melodic rock brilliance.
Robin Beck / Underloved is another taste of the wonderful voice that has impressed recently.
Steve Overland / Slip Away is one of the more commercial pop/AOR numbers I have heard Steve sing in recent years and I think FM fans will love it!
Naturally Gary Barden has to take part in this project and his track Love Is Blind closes out the album. Typical Barden and another fine track to add to a very impressive album.
Of course, all these great songs do raise the question of why can't the recent Bonfire releases be equally consistent and enjoyable.
|White Wolf Victim Of The Spotlight||Escape Music|
White Wolf were another one of those acts that never broke into mainstream through no fault of their own and in my case, are an act that slipped by in the days where so many other bands were vying for attention.|
So I have noting to go on but the face value of this "comeback" release. Dare I say that on the strength of this release, further investigation is definitely warranted!
White Wolf vocalist Don Wolf sounds to me like a hybrid of Ian Gillan, Graham Bonnet and. The music itself isn't far removed from classic energetic Deep Purple and other such stalwarts of classic rock.
I must state right away that this is a great sounding record. The production here is first rate – thumping rhythm section, big guitars and right tight mix that gives everyone room to breathe. The band is comprised of original vocalist Don and guitarist Cam Macleod, and the Swedish element fronted by Escape Music's man of the moment Martin Kronlund, who knows exactly what is needed and delivers big time.
Victim Of The Spotlight is a big bombastic opener that is only surpassed by the anthemic appeal of America (Hello Again).
One More Lie is another track that stands out from the pack and gets better with each listen.
The album really does capture an old-school sound without sounding dated, with keyboards delicately placed to recapture that classic sound.
Other highlights include the hard rock of Price Of One; the anthemic 80s rock of Dreams Are Forever; the free flowing Don't Turn Away and the double time rocker Out Of Control. The great appeal of the album is the consistency of the material and the solid sound that really makes this a great melodic hard rock record.
|Marco Mendoza Live For Tomorrow||Frontiers Records|
Marco Mendoza is a member of the musician's musician club. In other words, he is incredibly talented to the point where other musicians enjoy sitting back watching him play. He is also a very diverse guy, best known in these circles for his rock n roll bass playing in such monster names as Thin Lizzy, Blue Murder, Ted Nugent, Whitesnake and Soul Sirkus to name a few.|
But he also has a jazz trio and is a big fan of the blues. His influences are varied, so it is no surprise to hear his solo album combining those influences.
Joining Marco on this album is Richie Kotzen, another fan of diversity and a blues loving character.
The pairing of these two talented guys is perfect. There should be enough within the review introduction to suggest where the style of this record is set. Kotzen fans will know it well – a hybrid of pop, rock, blues and jazzy overtones with a definite swagger and certain funky vibe.
If it rocks at all it is with soul rather than with force. The album is generally fairly laid back, has a breezy way about it and when I does rock, it is with that bluesy angst - featuring a trademark Richie Kotzen guitar sound.
I would go as far to say that Marco even sounds like Richie. Their vocals are often entwined and the album is prevalent with harmonies. Live For Tomorrow is expertly produced, beautifully played and has a lot of soul. It however, is certainly not going to appeal to everyone.
|Cage Hell Destroyer||MTM Music|
I occasionally get comments along the lines of people expressing their surprise that I speak so enthusiastically about certain releases outside the usual sphere of what my tastes are perceived to include.|
Sure, I have my favourites and preferences for what I would prefer to listen to the majority of the time. But while I grew up listening to Rick Springfield, John Waite and Toto, I still had time for the likes of Racer X, TNT and even some Iron Maiden. And that is why I really dig Cage.
The expansion of the metal scene in recent years and this site covering a lot of that has helped expand my personal tastes even further and to me these guys are the real deal – authentic American metal. Completely old school approach in the classic Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Megadeth vein.
Cage broke out of their shell with a confronting and in your face release Darker Than Black. If that release put them on the map, then Hell Destroyer should be enough to create their own county.
This is super intense stuff – belligerently hammering your senses with riff after riff and a tempo that would give Richard Simmons a heart attack. What I like about vocalist Sean Peak is that he doesn't scream his way through the album, yet when he does howl, Rob Halford would be proud.
Hell Destroyer is simply brutal and a true metal warrior. I Am The King is a little more restrained before Christhammer goes right over the top.
Other highlights include the theatric Iron Maiden styled Rise Of The Beast; the rifftastic From Death To Legend and Beyond The Apocalypse; and Fall Of The Angels, which I guess is as close to a slow track as these guys are ever going to get!
|Poison Poison'D||Capitol Records|
After turning in a substantially under par effort last time around with the anticipated album Hollyweird, you would think Poison would be out to reclaim some lost ground with an album of kick ass melodic rock.|
I had a lot of time for Poison; they have shown flashes of brilliance over the years with such gems as Open Up And Say...Ahh! and the quite awesome Native Tongue. But this album is not anything close to brilliant.
Instead the band has retained the same cheap and nasty production values used on Hollyweird and resorted to the trend of the moment – all covers.
I generally don't like covers albums. A few work, but most don't. More often than not they are a stop gap measure between studio albums, but having kept fans waiting several years already for a new album, it seems we'll be waiting a little longer still.
Poison stick to the musical formula that suits them with a selection of glammed up and punked up tunes.
Predictable classic glam tracks by The Sweet (Little Willy), Alice Cooper (I Never Cry), David Bowie (Suffragette City), Kiss (Rock N Roll All Nite) are accompanied by a couple of more original and inspired choices such as Just What I Needed (The Cars) and I Need To Know (Tom Petty).
Sadly there are a few tracks which have already been covered by Poison previously (Squeeze Box, Rock N Roll All Nite, American Band & Your Mama Don't Dance).
Why those would be included again here is anyone's guess and for me delivers the proof needed of a rather uninspired effort by the band. Even the Def Leppard covers affair blows this away.
|Tesla Real To Reel||Tesla Recording Co. / Ryko|
As stated in the Poison review – some covers album's work, some don't. This one works better than most, but I would still not describe it as a classic or something that I will invest a lot of time in listening to it beyond this review.|
I have loved Tesla since their debut album arrived with a bang in 1987. I still rate it as one of the best debut albums of all time. Since then the band have consistently delivered quality albums and even after reforming, the last album Into The Now proved they still had that magic touch.
So once again I find myself questioning why the need for a covers album in the first place, but at least the tunes featured here have been Teslafied.
Tesla have followed the same path taken by Def Leppard, in delivering an album of classic 70s rockers in the same authentic style the originals were recorded in.
Now when we are talking production values, you could substitute the word authentic for crappy, as this is a long way from the high-tech wall of sound Tesla usually delivers.
This is a raw, stripped back and live in the studio affair and really is pretty loose sounding compared with what might be expected. But, while critical of this aspect, it does have this authentic feel and is clearly better than the Poison effort, plus the songs do have some energy to them.
For that reason I think there will be a number of Tesla fans quite satisfied with the results here.
The overall satisfaction of fans will depend on the individuals' appreciation of the songs covered. There are several here I have no time for whatsoever (Walk Away, Ball Of Confusion, Honky Tonk Woman, Bell Bottom Blues).
On the other hand there are some that are covered with perfect reverence and good grace (Space Truckin', Thank You, Bad Reputation, Day Of The Eagle, Dear Mr. Fantasy).
|Skansis Take Your Chance||Escape Music|
If you are standing around pondering when the next Gotthard album might possibly be started, you might want to fill in some of your time listing to Skansis.|
Not the best name I have ever heard for a group, but the contents of their album Take Your Chance are sizably better.
These Swiss rockers have much in common with their fellow compatriots Gotthard. A raspy lead vocal, a punchy guitar delivery, a contemporary yet very melodic style and some kick ass hard rock tunes.
I wouldn't pick these guys over Gotthard – that band is one of the very best in the world for this genre, but Skansis have delivered a very credible album here that I think will impress Gotthard fans.
The moody hard rock of Is That Enough kicks the album off in fine style, which is quickly followed up by an even more melodic anthem Will You Be There.
Gotthard comparisons continue throughout the album and the more you listen the more you hear it. The aggressive but melodic riffing of All I Care is all the proof you'll need.
Other highlights on the album include the fired up Changed My Mind, the punchy Dangermind and the melodic rock of Where Nobody Cries.
The only proper ballad of the album is the brilliant Heaven Tonight. I could have used perhaps one more ballad of this quality on the album.
|Alliance Destination Known||Escape Music|
Escape Music have repacked the two Alliance albums and added a few bonus tracks to each disc. As usual it is all packaged in a nice big digipack with full booklet. I really like this band – loved the original albums and here it is nice to hear them refreshed a little with bonuses.|
As I have stated in my original review of one of the band's albums – the guys deliver intelligent pop/melodic rock records like few others can.
They are a supergroup of session stars, featuring the line-up of Robert Berry (3, solo), Alan Fitzgerald (Night Ranger), David Lauser (Sammy Hagar band) and Gary Pihl (Boston). All the guys bring elements of their regular jobs into Alliance, but more importantly they gel into something rather unique. They really do have their own sound.
The music of Alliance is moody and understated. Intense and melodic - a very good mix of everything the guys have previously represented.
For those that know the band and their albums already – let's cut to the bonus tracks.
There are 8 in total – 4 for debut album and 4 for Missing Piece.
For the debut – My My My rocks long with quite a thumping beat, This Is The World is ok and there's also the Stevie Wonder cover Tell Me Something Good, which didn't do much for me. Love Win is a nice ballad to close out the album.
Missing Piece's bonus tracks include Change, a track that sounds every bit as good as the rest of the album tracks; Tonight, which doesn't have the sonic quality of other tracks, but is still ok; and a great little anthem Cross That Line, which is brilliant.
The Gift is a track of sub-par production and doesn't add any value to the set.
Bonus tracks are all well and good, but they are normally bonus tracks for a reason! However, there are a couple of gems included here, but the best part of this release is the ability for all melodic rock fans to now check out two quality releases from a quality act that are in the studio creating a new gem right now. Boston, Night Ranger and Robert Berry fans – this is essential stuff.
|Avril Lavigne The Best Damn Thing||RCA Records|
This record sees the unfortunate dummying down of Avril Lavigne. The young modern rocker made the mistake of maturing too fast with her second album My Happy Ending, which showcased some fantastic songwriting and intricate melodies.|
That left her record label with the decision to better match her music with her most active fan base – young teenagers. This punk-friendly record abandons the mature angst filled brilliance of that last album for a set of disposable songs offering instant gratification but little else. This record took about 2 spins to get to know and is as shallow as Avril's attitude.
There isn't much on here that readers here will relate to, nor is there anything that comes close to the last album. Congratulations to all involved, you have succeeded in reversing the aging process. Disposable pap I'm afraid. Avril is now younger than when she first made her debut.
|Koritni Lady Luck||Bad Reputation|
With Aussie rockers Airbourne creating a huge flap for merely playing bread and butter Aussie pub rock, fans should perhaps also check out fellow Oz rockers Koritni. These guys can play the AC/DC bar room shuffle as well as any other and their punchy hard rocking record sounds killer thanks to a Mike Fraser mix. Mixing the likes of AC/DC with screamer Jimmy Barnes, Koritni offer nothing new for long time fans of Aussie pub rock – but do it very well. |
The album does suffer a little from lack or variation and the tendency to plod along in places. But being that no one other than Airbourne is really doing this still in 2007, these guys will definitely find a fan base for their retro friendly pub rock sound. The guys were formerly known as Green Dollar Colour, another album worth checking out.
|Wild Frontier Bite The Bullet||Indie / Point Music|
More kick ass German melodic hard rock on offer here. This album has been out for some time now, but in case you missed it and are looking for music in the vein on Bonfire and perhaps a few Def Leppard style vocal harmonies and some 80s keyboard fills thrown in for good measure, check it out.|
The band concentrates on powerful melodic hard rockers for the most part – the opening track Anything You Want is brilliant; Before Your Heart Will Turn To Stone is instantly catchy; Surrounded is also great.
There are also a couple of ballads, Good Things Don't Come easy being the best and also a neat cover of Russ Ballad's I Know There Is Something Going On. The accent on the lead vocal is there, but so is some decent songs to make it a very enjoyable affair overall.
|Scorpions Humanity Hour 1||Sony BMG|
I have made this same point in past reviews – who knows just why sometimes an artist just seems to nail it? When you hit on the right combination of songs, style, attitude and production it just comes together I guess, and true to those worlds I think the Scorpions have nailed it on this record.|
Produced by the great Desmond Child and with songwriting input from Eric Bazilian (The Hooters), Russ Irwin, Billy Corgan and Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Brother Cain), the Scorps have delivered an album that I think will impress all but the most ardent pessimists.
The band really cocked things up with their experimental Eye II Eye release, then pulled it back with the return to form Unbreakable.
But then there was again talk of modernizing the band's sound for this album and I feared the worst.
Those fears have proved to be unfounded, as the guys have mixed the best attributes of a modern direction with great songs and the band's old-school knack of a good melody.
In the same way as Bon Jovi transformed their 80s stadium sound to a contemporary vibe of Have A Nice Day, the Scorpions have updated the guitar sound and the production effects perfectly – some tracks push the new sound harder and others pull it back to an almost classic 80s commercial style. The mix of approach keeps things sounding fresh and above all else, the guys simply have some great songs to fall back on here.
The album opens with the thundering rocker Hour I which explores the darker, more modern vibe featured within the album. What a groove this track has – the energy of the performance really busts open this album for me. The song, and indeed the album as a whole, has a massive sound thanks to prouder Desmond Child, who clearly still has the ability to bring the best out in a band.
That massive sound carries over into the more traditional sounding melodic rock anthem The Game Of Life – songs of this quality haven't been heard on a Scorpions album since Savage Amusement.
We Were Born To Fly reverts back to the more modern feel and features a darker moodier mid-paced delivery and another great chorus.
The tempo remains the same for The Future Never Dies, which again sees the band in a more classic commercial vein with this appealing rock ballad.
The flip flopping between contemporary and classic styling continues with the rocker You're Lovin' Me To Death. Normally switching back and forth through an album drives me buts, but the difference here is that al the songs have the same consistency and strong production, so the subtle changes in guitar tone and approach aren't as immediately noticeable.
321 is a hard rocking modern sounding track that could almost pass for modern day Ozzy Osbourne and potentially could scare some off is it wasn't for the catchy chorus.
Love Will Keep Us Alive is an abrupt left turn after the sonic barrage of 321. This is a great multi-layered, acoustic driven ballad.
We Will Rise Again reminds me of what Bon Jovi did with their last album – update their classic style to sound more contemporary and that's what the Scorps have done with this ballad come rocker.
Your Last Song follows suit – this is 2007 Scorps in action and another fine song and chorus hook.
Love Is War is an acoustic driven rock song mixing new and classic influences. A big sound once again and very polished performance.
The Cross is a fast tempo modern rocker with another instantly likable melodic chorus.
Humanity closes out the album in spectacular symphonic style, with an anthemic ballad turned anthem rocker with orchestral backing and a definite Meatloaf vibe to it. Great stuff indeed…
|Robin Beck Livin' On A Dream||Frontiers Records|
It is a very safe bet to say that no Robin Beck fan is going to be disappointed with this release. Safer even to state that they will be very impressed with it, as Robin gives it her all to capture the best elements of her past mixed with a few newer elements such as the involvement of Tommy Denander.|
Beck has a killer voice and the performance here is her best since the classic debut Trouble Or Nothing.
I'm also very impressed with the songwriting. There is a definite energy here and the tracks have that spark that is needed to create a great album.
When needed Robin kicks ass – the opening rocker Livin' On A Dream and late in the album Magic both tear down walls as Robin never has before; as does Show Me The Way; while Love Me Like A Man and Nothing's Gonna Change Your World peg it back a notch, while still delivering a gutsy passionate vocal and some strong hooks.
Always is a huge ballad with a vocal Ann Wilson would be proud of.
Can't Get Enough Of Your Heart is another full, multi-layered melodic track and Till The Last Tear Drop Falls is another lush ballad in duet with husband James Christian.
The majority of the album's tempo is direct and pacey, giving melodic rock fans plenty of hooks and anthems to enjoy.
Closing out the album is however the very best track of the album. I'm not sure why it got left till the end, but Love Lies is simply one of the best rockers I have heard Robin sing, complete with a classic chorus and a full production sound.
The only thing I would critique is the variation in production sound. The whole album is strong and very well constructed, but there are two different sounds in play here and I prefer one over the other.
Although not credited on the promo, Tommy Denander is all over parts of this record and his signature guitar sound and production technique are obvious from the first note of songs he is a part of. Livin' On A Dream, Love Me Like A Man, Seventeen Forever, Magic, Runaway and Wrapped Around Your Finger for example all have that programmed Denander sound.
Whereas Always, Can't Get Enough Of Your Heart, Nothing's Gonna Change Your World, I Can't Walk The Line and Love Lies all have a much fuller sound, richer tones and a smoother mix, which I find instantly alluring and very rewarding. I only wish the whole album feature such a rich full band tone.
|Los Angeles Los Angeles||Frontiers Records|
Los Angeles is another of Frontiers Records' assembled projects designed to make Italian singer Michele Luppi look/sound great. And I think that goal is achieved thanks to some astute choices in the song department – those tracks chosen are a perfect platform for Luppi's classic AOR range and together as an album they all work relatively well together. Importantly these songs sound like an album rather than a compilation of tunes.|
In a time dominated by heavier music, it's nice to slip into an album that is more or less the precise format in style that this site was originally launched to promote – pure AOR.
The record has a very familiar air to it - the Frabrizio Grossi production and Tommy Denander's guitar parts...no surprises from either contributor - but it is Luppi's pure AOR vocal that takes center stage.
He has a very likable and commercial voice, and has applied it to some great AOR tracks.
Gregg Giuffria appears for a 39 second cameo to supply the album's intro – classic Giuffria no matter how short the passage of music. The anthemic I Will Carry You sets the tone for the album – a song believe it or not, recorded previously by American Idol's Clay Aiken.
The likes of Richard Marx and Mark Williamson among other supply the other songs for Luppi to sing.
There really is some fine mid-up tempo AOR here such as I Must Be Blind, Run and The Other Side – all chosen no doubt for their catchy riffs and memorable choruses. And no classic AOR record would be complete without ballads. Thanks To You, When You Think Of Me and Measure Of A Man allow Luppi to shine on the mellower side.
On a moodier note comes the sublime Edge Of Forever, which leads into the perfect follow-up, a cover of the Gary Moon era Night Ranger track Last Chance.
The only issue I have with this release is that fact it could have sounded even better with a different choice of producer. The ultra-compressed production technique of Mr. Grossi has worn thin on these ears. Grossi's current output does not match the quality seen with releases such as On The Edge and Vertigo.
The overall sound is definitely passable, but it is not a production style that I would pick if given a choice.
Oh, and music aside, the album cover is absolutely dreadful – not a good advert for the music contained within.
|Mass Crack Of Dawn||Escape Music|
Mass never broke out in Australia back in their day so I never spent much time with their music. That's definitely changed since I got the advance of this album – I have spent a great deal of time with it. My conclusion - this is a great record that captures two sides of the band perfectly.|
This record has been several years in the making, so you would expect the songwriting to be a major strength of the record and it is.
The production is also first rate. Again, it shows that a lot of time has been put into this record and everyone reaps the rewards.
A pounding rhythm section and great guitar sound greet the listener, with vocals of frontman Louis D'Augusta sailing over the top.
The band's sound is possibly a little left field for some, but it is mixed up here quite well and I find myself enjoying both sides of the band's delivery.
Those sides include a slice of sleaze rock bands such as Bang Tango and LA Guns, mixed with a Robert Plant/Led Zeppelin delivery and on the other hand at times a smoother more restrained sound, accompanies by a deeper more earthy vocal.
It's You is a mellow start to the album considering some of the rockers on board, but I like its style and attitude.
Crack Of Dawn is classic Bang Tango to some, but classic Mass to those in the know. That rock n roll sleaze is carried into Empty Soul, which you might remember was featured on MelodicRock CD Volume 2. Magic Train rocks along with a similar bluesy attitude and Monkey Brain could almost be LA Guns '88.
Who Am I rounds out the highlights from this side.
On a mellower note referenced earlier, Hello is brilliant, Castle is rich and multi-layered with a great vocal and hook and Someday is as moody as it gets.
|Newman Primitive Soul||Indie / Chrome Dome Music|
The ever reliable and always consistent Steve Newman returns with a brand new album, once again taking full control of proceedings by writing, recording and performing most of the music contained within this release.|
And he takes it one step further by also releasing the album independently for the first time in his career.
Around all of this he has found the time to write another set of compelling and catchy British modeled melodic rock tunes that will instantly appeal to his long time fans and further promote the fact that he is a very fine talent within this scene.
Primitive Soul does two things which seem to contradict each other. He continues the songwriting style of the last couple of albums, but at the same time this album steps away from the production style of those records into a fresh direction.
That doesn't mean this is anything that Newman fans won't instantly recognize, it is merely a record with a different sonic approach.
I like what I hear too – this is a more organic, somewhat stripped down release with a less polished veneer and a more live in the studio feel. Quite a feat considering recording this live in the studio at the same would be a physical impossibility considering Steve plays guitar, bass and keyboards.
Joining him is the drummer from the last album Rob McEwen along with Mark Thompson-Smith on backing vocals and Mr. Everywhere, Tommy Denander guesting on the track Cold Day In Hell.
I didn't find this record as instant as the last couple of releases and at the end of the day I probably prefer those by a narrow margin, but that does mean there aren't some fresh classics delivered here.
Heading For Your Heart will again rate highly at the end of the year in the best song lists, with it's stabbing beat and classic melodic rock chorus.
15 Minute Revolution has a biting lyric and great message and the arrangement gives you something to continually go back and grow into.
Primitive Soul is quite sparse musically, very raw…but is nothing short of classic Newman and Still Can't Find The Words is a beautiful soft, acoustic driven ballad.
Last Flight continues the classic uptempo melodic rocking Newman style and completes a very fine first half of the album.
Highlights from the second half include the moody, but uptempo For The Man I Am; the Giant-esque groove of Cold Day In Hell; the amazing ballad The Rapture and the punchy rock of Give It All You Got.
As you can see – highlights are considerable as per usual and as expected from Newman.
|Frederiksen / Denander Baptism By Fire||Frontiers Records|
The Fergie Frederiksen / Tommy Denander partnership makes a lot of sense. After all, Fergie's vocal tracks on Tommy's last couple of Radioactive projects were the highlight of those albums.
So in essence, Frederiksen/Denander is an expansion upon those Radioactive appearances…a main course rather than a mere appetizer.|
Elaborating further, everything on this album is bigger and better than what we've been dished up previously.
Naturally we get lashings of Tommy Denander's usual guitar/keyboard/synth programming style that is synonymous with every one of his records, but in this case the production is far superior thanks to a tight Dennis Ward mix, and turning in a blinding vocal performance is the star of this show - Fergie Frederiksen.
He really sounds in super fine voice and is a treat to listen to. Having been a fan of Fergie's since his debut with Toto on the still classic Isolation album, I can safely say this is one of his finest vocal performances.
The songwriting I must say is of high standard too, even if we have heard it before.
I wouldn't say this record pushes any boundaries or challenges any preconceived notion of the two performers, but it does deliver the quality expected of both and then some.
The opening bars of the album may be a little predictable, but once the chorus of Let Him Go arrives, all is forgiven. This is a glorious harmony filled track with a nice touch of piano.
Other rockers include the straight forward Silver Lining which features a wonderful lead vocal through the verse; the stampeding Crossing Over which is an album highlight; and the darker and intense Baptism By Fire.
Never Try And Love Again is pure AOR bliss and Dead End is a high-tech styled pop rocker with a little attitude. Keep A Light On rolls along with ease but perhaps misses a bigger hook.
Right Heart, Wrong Time showcases a more laid back aspect of the songwriting, but still manages to soar with another defining chorus.
Written In Stone follows a similar path and is one of two very Toto-ish tracks on the album. The jazzy Isolation styled Left With Nothing is the other – itself another album highlight.
A couple of songs don't work in the sense that they just sound a little programmed and all too familiar. For me that is Saving Grace and Can't Get Enough.
And it would be remiss of me to not comment on the lack of a ballad or two here?
There are ten very consistent tracks here and a couple that I think don't quite impact as well as they could.
Perhaps those two tracks could have been swapped for a couple of killer ballads? That would have given the album an even better balance and sent AOR fans into a real tizzy.
|TRW Rivers Of Paradise||Frontiers Records|
TRW is none other than melodic rock greats Michael Thompson (guitar), Mark Williamson (vocals and bass) and John Robinson (drums).|
This is one of those session-all-star melodic rock projects that you hear about and instantly piss your pants about, drooling at the very thought of what such legends could possible come up with and just how glorious the songs could be. But when you get it home after weeks of anticipation, you discover it is one of those albums where the principles have (musically speaking) done exactly what they wanted to do, but not so much what you wished they have done.
History is littered with such albums where the guys have simple indulged their own musical passion rather than what they were perhaps best known for.
Now, that might sound a little harsh, so let me clarify that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – after all, musicians writing and recording from the heart can only be a good thing. And this is a quality record. There is no doubting the energy or quality of the performances.
But the appeal may not be as widespread as it could have been.
In the end this is one of those bluesy, stripped back organic kind of records that is really good for what it is….but the number of people that it will appeal to is going to be limited.
The record grows on repeated listens and there really is some fine songs within. The uptempo melodic rock of Rivers Of Paradise is of course the billboard for the album as it has the most instant appeal.
But it is with the second full length track Hold On that the album's true nature is revealed. Earthy, blues based rock with a touch of soul is the name of the game.
Indiscretion and Gonna be Some Changes continue themed-tempo blues based approach. Solid songs, but no real urgency to them and certainly no anthemic choruses in sight.
The mid-album ballad Only A Letter is the second real gem of the record, turning towards a more appealing AOR sentiment.
Hard Time Love goes straight back into the stripped back classic rock sound and One Good Woman gets even bluesier with quite a swagger to it.
Love Comes Calling is again more AOR friendly and another highlight, and the album closes with one of the bluesier songs of the entire record – Alimony Blues.
|Michael Thompson Band How Long||Frontiers Records|
I don't normally review too many re-issues, but MTB is one of those exceptions. There is only one way to describe the debut Michael Thompson Band record – classic!|
One of the finest and dare I say smoothest, adult contemporary rock records of the last two decades.
Guitarist Michael Thompson is joined by the pitch perfect Moon Calhoun, a vocalist seldom heard elsewhere, which I regard as a criminal offence.
This really is some wonderful soft AOR – you don't get better than the smooth Westcoast ballads Give Love A Chance and Never Stop Falling and then 1000 Nights is one of the great AOR anthems of the "classic" years.
Many will know this album all too well, but if not – then investigate pronto if you like it slick and soft, but with amazing vocals and some sublime guitar playing.
The most important aspect of this re-issue is the bonus tracks!
Right To Be Wrong is a little rougher than the album proper, and a little grittier. Moon sounds great though, as does the tougher guitar lick. Perhaps this was deemed a little heavy for the concept of the original album. Cool song with a definite 80s high-tech chorus.
Love Goes On is curiously titled as you all should know it as the Jeff Paris anthemic AOR rocker I Can't Let Go, from his classic Wired Up release.
Not quite as punchy here, but still a killer song.
Also included here is a brand new song, as a pre-cursor to a brand new studio album due next year.
Wheelchair is a typically smooth mid-tempo AOR track with an adult contemporary slant. The timbre of Moon's voice has definitely changed over the years, but the tone remains equally as appealing. Not a knockout track, but definitely a welcome taste of what is to follow.
|Rush Snakes & Arrows||Atlantic/Anthem|
Rush don't make bad records – they are simply incapable of doing so. However, they can make mistakes and occasionally don't please all their fans as much as they could.|
Case in point their last studio album which suffered from overly loud mastering, which made some great songs sound bad.
I think the guys were at times trying a little too hard after a long lay off.
This on the other hand is produced, mixed and mastered to perfection. Crisp, balanced and ever so easy on the ears.
Easy also in the sense that it is just Rush being Rush…not too heavy, but plenty of attitude and some of their best music in a long time.
Musically I think this sits somewhere on the same playing field as Test for Echo and Counterparts, but also includes touches of Presto and the Hold Your Fire sense of melody.
That said I come back to the point that this is basically just Rush being Rush and continuing on the natural musical path they have walked forever.
What I like is that the guys all get their time to shine. There are some truly great drum fills on the album (needless to say that Neal Peart's playing is always sublime).
Geddy Lee's bass thumps along, at times running with the rhythm, and at other times stamping its own authority on the song.
And Alex Lifeson's guitar tone is just perfect! How refreshing to hear some astounding riffs and rhythms delivered with a contemporary manner, without having to resort to unnecessary down-tuning or other tricks.
I felt that the guitar tone on Vapor Trails was a bit forced, but here it sounds so natural – as do all the guys' parts.
Highlights from the album are considerable. Far Cry is classic Rush and the added bridge melody is straight out of the Hold Your Fire/Presto handbook, as is the opening bars of Workin' Them Angels.
Armor And Sword has some great guitar techniques and an effective chorus that mellows in comparison with the rest of the song.
I love the acoustic work on The Larger Bowl and Spindrift sees the guys stretch the progressive nature of their sound.
Not generally a fan of instrumentals, I can attest that those featured here – the hard driving The Main Monkey Business, the acoustic Hope and the progressive Malignant Narcissism are simply three of the best instrumentals in recent memory. Love them all.
The melody of Faithless stands out instantly and the changing mood of Bravest Face and Good News First show that these guys are still innovators of their craft.
|Cornerstone Two Tales Of One Tomorrow||Massacre Records|
I'm not sure why, but in my mind Cornerstone are still one of the more underrated European hard rock/melodic metal acts in business. Perhaps this, their fourth studio album will help them break further into the metal mainstream.|
Band principles vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie) and keyboardist Steen Mogensen (Royal Hunt) deliver quality and passion on every occasion.
Two Tales Of One Tomorrow picks up where the last studio album Once Upon Our Yesterday's left off. Swirling keyboards, big guitar riffs (courtesy once again from Mike Tramp guitarist Kasper Damgaard) and powerful and melodic vocals in the best tradition of the European hard rock/metal genre.
Cornerstone has developed their own style over time – best demonstrated by the opening pairing of Misery with its double kick-drums and organ drenched harmonies plus the slower, but more aggressive crunch of One Man's Hell.
The other side of the band is highlighted by the slower and moodier Mother Of Mercy and the simple massive power rock ballad Blinded, which oozes passion and angst.
Other highlights from the record include the title track Two Tales Of One Tomorrow, which features some fine guitar work and snappy drumming; the big Royal Hunt styled Starlight And Mystery and the simple straight ahead rocker Wicked.
Human Stain still remains the band's classic release, but you can safely add this to their quality discography.
|Martie Peters Group Road To Salvation||NL Distribution|
Martie Peters is another very consistent artist that has been featured here over the years. Dropping his solo name in favor of the MPG moniker, this album sees Martie take a slight left turn compared with the straight ahead commercial melodic rock of his solo albums and the band he fronted before that – Push.|
The Mike Tramp soundalike and fellow Danish rocker has updated his sound in favor of a more contemporary delivery - but not so much as to frighten off any old fans.
In fact, anyone that has found themselves a converted fan already will simply find this release another very strong and consistent record, which will sit alongside the other albums with ease.
The guitars are slightly more prominent this time around and the music has been updated to some degree, with a darker, but more contemporary poppier guitar sound and some modern influences, but at the heart of this, Martie's trademark vocal still rules as does the same strong melodic influence that has dominated past records.
I found most of the record's differences in the first few listens – the slightly more pop/punk attitude of the guitar attack and the added use of production effects – but now I'm 20 listens in I simply see this as another cool Martie Peters record.
The guitars and the vocals remain layers deep and the harmonies still flow over the top.
The albums' first three tracks Fallen, Chosen One and Shallow all rock along at a fine pace and give the listener little time to relax.
The Clown is perhaps a little more familiar and also more laid back, but still sonically quite intense.
And I love the hard rocking, yet modern pop of Wish. The samples, drum loops and effects are accompanied by heavy guitars and a massive chorus, so to my ears, it is classic meets modern in the best possible way.
For What It's Worth is the first real break in tempo and a terrific classic melodic rock ballad.
Swimming In Your Blue Eyes continues the sentimental portion of the album, but in a more intense way and another great hook and chorus.
The good fun continues through the end of the album. A habit Martie seems to have adopted is re-recording one of his older tracks on each album. The Push classic Waitin' In Line is the chosen track this time around, updated with the same sonic burst as the rest of the album and a slightly more modern chorus. A good song works in any format!
|Bloodbound Book Of The Dead||Metal Heaven|
Bloodbound's debut was an impressive slice of intense European styled melodic metal, with a dramatic flair matched only by the guys masquerading image.|
A furious flurry of drums, guitars and keyboards, the band made an instant name for themselves before vocalist Urban Breed went his own way, leaving the band with the distinct possibility of being a one album wonder.
But, determination and a strong foundation of songs for album number two saw them press on. A new vocalist was needed and at what seems like the very last minute, in steps Mr. Versatile Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart, Rain, Zeno).
Better known for his straight ahead melodic rock efforts, not to mention his sometimes Midwestern rasp, Bormann seemed an unlikely choice until I heard this album.
It is possible some might find his voice not as good a fit as Urban, as this album certainly has a more commercial and melodic sense of style, but at the same time, perhaps this will open up what is otherwise a bloody heavy release to some more melodic thinking fans.
The bombastic and sonically brutal Sign Of The Devil shows that Bloodbound have not mellowed in any way. No mellowing, but definitely a more melodic and more accessible feel as highlighted by the positively commercial The Temper and Book Of The Dead.
Things turn frantic again on Lord Of Battle, Into Eternity and Turn To Stone – the latter being the heaviest thing I have ever heard Bormann sing.
The hellish sounding Flames Of Purgatory is actually not much heavier than what Jaded Heart offer up. There's even a big ballad in Black Heart – an intense and thoroughly enjoyable metal ballad.
|Tragik Poetic Justice||Escape Music|
Tragik is for all intents and purposes a new Phil Vincent record. Phil has made a name for himself over nearly a decade now, building a reputation for being a consistent deliverer of good quality melodic rock, albeit in a one-man-band situation.|
Phil, with an amazing 9 solo albums to his name and whose biggest singe influence is that of a solo Kip Winger, has on this occasion taken (a slightly tweaked) version of the title of his last solo album and turned this into a new band project.
I presume his desire was to fill out the sound a little more and sure enough that has been achieved.
Phil still handles all lead vocals, keyboards and rhythm guitars, but helping out with some more attacking axe work comes from 22 year old new comer Damian D'Ercole.
Damien adds a little aggression to the album and some fine soloing.
Phil Vincent's music is for the norm, very methodical, thought out and executed with a degree of care. Damian compliments that precision by adding a little 'by the sea of your pants' attitude.
Damian also handles the bass duties, and Dirk Phillips handles drums, making this album's rhythm sections probably the most impactful of Phil's career to date.
Musically Phil doesn't stray far from his past influences. Poetic Justice is a mix of mature, composed signer/songwriter melodic rock, in the vein of Kip Winger's intense solo albums (One Of Us, Never Stand Alone, Who Will be There?) and a more uptempo attacking guitar tracks (Show The World, Test of Faith, Long Time Comin', Back Of My Mind) and also a few new, experimental affects filled pop rockers (Message To God, Welcome To The Real World) and even a heavier modern rockers (Caught In The Moment, Higher).
|Daydreamer Daydreamer||Escape Music|
An unusual release this one. I had to work a little harder than I would normally like to in order to fully appreciate this, but I got there in the end. That does suggest to me that someone else out there will be more appreciative of this in quicker time.|
Daydream is a new Swiss hard rock / melodic metal outfit featuring the vocal talents of Jean-Marc Viller. Jean as you may remember also contributed lead vocals for fellow Swiss prog-mettalers Neverland. Of that record I found the songs to be a little average and didn't warm to the vocals either.
This record features the same gruff, in your face delivery from Viller, but for whatever reason, this record works better for him and for me.
As I stated, it does take a little getting used to, but I think the more melodic approach of this record – even though it is still quite heavy – works well.
There is also a little musical variation which helps balance the record overall.
There is the heavy prog-metal of the opening track I Am F… (no idea about that title!) and mid-album Paralyzed; then there's the straight ahead hard hitting modern melodic metal of Guardian Angel in which the band rips off John Parr's Man In Motion (St. Elmo's Fire) with scant regard for copyright!
Continuing to diversify, there is the more melodic straight ahead hard rock of Secret Desire and Philosophy, which is one of the better album tracks. There are even a few decent ballads in Dreamtale, Hand In Hand and I Won't Follow You.
|JK Northrup Wired In My Skin||Alien Records/NL Distribution|
Jeff Northrup always delivers two things – quality melodic hard rock and diversity. |
Wired in My Skin is no different. When you kick things off with an aggressive and contemporary instrumental, you know things are going to be interesting.
This album is a case of more of the same for established JK fans – you know what you are going to get.
But it is also a step forward in terms of how good it sounds – JK has stepped up to the plate here as far as production and performances.
Basically you have here a collection of crisp, hard rocking and in your face songs, interspersed with the occasional sentimental ballad, sung by some of the best voices of American rock, plus a couple of cranking instrumentals.
Of the killer tracks is Wired In My Skin - a full force in your face rocker featuring old bud Johnny Edwards on vocals; The Road features Terry Ilous sounding like Mike Reno for this sweet slower track; Perfect Imperfection is a jangly uptempo pop rocker featuring Ted Poley; So Long is another cool Ilous sung track, which made it's debut on the last MR.com compilation; Metamophis is a cranked instrumental and Grind Me Down is a Ilous sung modern hard rocker.
The songs that don't work for me as much are Big Blue Sky - a modern rocker featuring Kelly Keeling; Cemented Eyes is much the same featuring vocalist David Zaragoza; and perhaps the acoustic Ted Poley sung If I Were James Taylor (as sweet as it is), is a just a little out of character from the rest of the record.
Some great performances here and some great vocalists as usual. A highly recommended release for fans of American melodic hard rock and slick guitar playing.
|Decoy Call Of The Wild||AOR Heaven|
I'm still not quite sure what to make of Decoy. I guess it is the variation in styles throughout that creates not only a challenging record, but also one that risks feeling somewhat disjointed. Perhaps it is just simply that the songwriting is not strong enough throughout the record.|
The project features songwriter and guitarist Torben Enevoldsen (Section A, Fatal Force) joining forces with one of my favourite singers of the last few years – Grand Illusion's Peter Sundell. Torben is an accomplished musician and has created a great sounding record here. His usual fare is for the heavier side of things, but you can tell he has tried to inject extra melody into these songs.
Sundell is an amazing vocals and truth be told – one of the more over the top singers around. I love his work with the Styx influenced Grand Illusion. He creates a high note out of nothing and has a range few others can boast.
The style of this record might just be something not suited to his talents.
The album's opening tracks Divided and Call Of The Wild are both barnstorming European style hard rockers with a melodic edge – thanks mainly to Sundell's vocals.
Brothers In Arms sees things slow down and things are looking good.
But something about Heavy Metal Thunder doesn't work. It's perhaps a little cliché and the chorus tries to be unnecessarily heavy.
Then Make A Stand turns darker, moodier and heavier and misses a stand out melody. Break Through returns to the sound of the opening tracks and Forever And Ever is more melodic, but both songs could use a bigger hook.
My Religion's chorus is just plain annoying and How Long again tries to hard to be heavier than it had to be.
The Real Deal is just about perfect and Peace of Mind is also better – closing the album with some melodic metal attitude.
What's Love? A Tribute To Tina Turner
Tribute and covers albums just keep appearing don't they? Just about everyone worth paying tribute to has been done and then some.|
So these days it really has to be something special to make an impact and on the surface, perhaps a tribute to Tina Turner is a little unusual from a rock label, but you know, Tina has belted out some gems over the years and is a rock chick at heart.
But this simply doesn't inspire me at all. The quality of the songs here is not in question – rather the interpretation of them and the quality of the recordings.
Some of these tracks work well, some not quite so and some pretty much suck.
Those that work are – the always reliable Richard Kendrick's smoking version of Better Be Good To Me; a haunting piano ballad version of Private Dancer by Jasy Andrews; and an acoustic So Fine by the always impeccable Kip Winger.
Tiffany's What's Love Got To Do With It works ok also, but the rest….either uninspired or just plain boring – Alannah Myles especially disappointing considering Jeff Healey is backing her.
When a rock label covers music from the grandmother of female rockers, then you expect it to rock. This tribute album simply doesn't. It is stuck in a slow to mid-tempo groove where most of the contributing artists try and vary things up and slow them down instead of just doing the original songs justice.
|Various Artists Always - A Tribute To Bon Jovi||Versailles Records|
The second of two new tribute records from Versailles Records. Tina Turner didn't fare too well, so how about Bon Jovi's music?|
Same premise – some tracks work and some just plain suck…this isn't much better than the Tina Turner tribute.
Derrick Leferve does an ok Living On A Prayer; but Jasey Andrews reprises her Tina Turner role delivering haunting piano ballad, which is ok, but who the hell placed this as track 2??? It totally kills any momentum gained from the opening track.
The next couple of tracks (Blaze of Glory, Wanted Dead or Alive) continue the snoozefest. Bizarre they are stacked at the top of the record and it isn't until Jani Lane delivers a spirited Lay Your Hands On Me that tings get rocking again. Ordinary production quality though…
John Corabi's Born To Be My Baby is ok, but sound quality is crappy and below the volume set by the rest of the tracks.
Biggest WTF moment comes from Colie Brice with one of the worst cover tunes of all time – a slow, psychedelic, effects-filled version of Always. Truly awful.
About half the songs work ok, the rest are to slow or simply out of character.
|Miss Behaviour Heart Of Midwinter||Sunset Fox Records|
Miss Behaviour hail from Sweden, where only good music emanates and those that fail to make the grade are sent in cargo ships to Iceland.|
The guys have an interesting sound – part typical European melodic metal, part Swedish melodic hard rock and part something different – largely due to the vocals of frontman Mattias Wetterhall. His voice has a distinct accent to it, but also reminds me of Bruce Dickinson's distinct manner of delivery.
This is a musically intense and bombastic album, swirling keyboards, and a guitar presence that is solid but not overbearing at all.
The lead vocals are powerful and the keyboards play a strong role in delivering the melodies, but in all tracks there is a sense of both power and melody.
This isn't an easy on to categorize besides what has already been stated, but is definitely something worth checking out as the song writing is strong as is the production quality. Recommended.
|TNT The New Territory||Bonnier Amigo|
This is one of the toughest reviews I have had to write in a long long time. It is always hard to talk negatively about an artist you admire and have appreciated over the years, even harder that all the guys involved are good people too. However, I cannot be anything but honest as far as how I see it and straight up – I find this album to be very disappointing and not at all representative of what the name TNT brings to mind.|
The most logical conclusion from some will be that it is due to the change in vocalist. I'm sure that plays a part, but in this case, I simply feel that the songs are just not good enough and concentrate too hard on trying to be cleaver or different rather than classic TNT style.
I am a big TNT fan, but have had issues with some of their previous releases - Firefly being the most obvious. I am also a fan of new vocalist Tony Mills – his work over the years has been reviewed in a largely positive way on this site, especially with Shy.
The loss of vocalist Tony Harnell was always going to be hard for this band to overcome, but thinking logically, Tony Mills was the probably the most obvious choice of replacement, his voice capable of handling the band's back catalogue in a live setting.
So I have no issue with Tony Mills fronting the band, but that said I am disappointed with some of his vocals on this album and the overall choice of direction by the entire band.
This is another step away from the classic TNT approach.
And this is the first time I can ever recall actually being annoyed by Tony's vocals. Even on the horribly produced Anderssen/Mills project, I liked his approach.
The New Territory is an apt title, not only for the switch in vocalists, but this album continues the move started on the last album All The Way To The Sun to be more experimental again.
The hard rock approach of the band's classic era is all but dismantled, even though their most successful album in many years was My Religion, an album that retuned the band to their most loved sound and style.
This is a groovier, more freestyle pop/rock record, with the band seemingly content on mixing it up and experimenting wherever possible. But for me, these experiments don't work and it is only when the band returns to their more straight ahead sound that I feel satisfied with the song.
There are clear influences from pop Gods The Beatles and Queen in play as well as Ronni's own Vagabond band, which this album has more in common with than traditional TNT.
At times I felt the band had more in common with The Darkness than TNT and for the first time since Firefly, I simply could not stand a couple of the songs at all.
In fact, as hard as it is to type this comment – the more I listen to this record the less I like it.
I find that on some songs I really enjoy Tony's vocal, but don't like the guitar sound, while on other tracks I am enjoying the music, but hating the vocal.
It is an unusual situation that I can find no previous parallel to, as far as reviews I have written, and between the individual issues I have which each given track, there are few that I can say I just enjoyed outright.
Track By Track:
A Constitution opens suitably enough. A nice build up featuring the classic LeTekro guitar sound signals promising times ahead. Tony Mills makes his TNT debut in a subdued way – a dark and brooding vocal line to start. The chorus sees him lift to his usual range and that you'd normally expect from TNT, given their history with Tony Harnell. But the chorus also features a lead guitar riff that I don't like at all. The higher pitch riff is actually quite annoying. If a guitar could whine…then this is how it would sound.
Substitute is a poppy uptempo rocker with an abrasive guitar riff in effect, dueling with the lead vocal during the verse. I like Tony's vocals here and the song is ok. It has attitude and although it isn't the best production I have heard from the band, it works out.
Are You Blind? reminds me of the last album a little. The guys are really treading a very poppy line here, especially with the chorus. Certainly not the old school hard rock of the past. Some of the vocal melodies during the verse don't sit well with me, but the chorus is the strongest of the album to date.
Golden Opportunity is a perplexing one. The riff is classic TNT, yet I don't like the leading vocal that leads off each verse. The chorus is better and I like the vocals here also. However, mid-song things get turned on their head with a pretty annoying bridge that borders on just plain silly. The na na na's get old quickly.
Something Special kicks off with a far meatier riff that suggests vintage TNT in play. It some ways this is true, although it is always going to be a different beat with Tony Mills up front. Not one of the stronger TNT songs ever, but one of the closest things to a familiar style on the record.
Now We're Talkin' is just plain bizarre. It kicks in with a gritty riff and groove that suggests something special before the song is killed off instantly with Tony doing the verse in a spoken word British cockney accent. It drives me nuts. Then there is the chorus. It bounds in with a progressive twist and Tony singing at last, but flies into some effects filled falsetto piece, which sounds more like The Darkness than TNT.
The guys are clearly having a laugh of sorts and trying to be different, but for me it doesn't work.
Wild Life is for me the pick of the album. At last we get a pure straight forward rocker, with a nice riff and an old school, gimmick free lead vocal and a good chorus also. It stands head and shoulders above the rest of the album's material.
Unfortunately this straightforwardness doesn't last long. The tricks are back in play on the very next song. The chorus in this case is utterly horrendous.
Fountain of Love features more Darkness inspired, effects filled falsetto vocals totally ruin what potentially could have been a decent mid-tempo ballad.
It only gets worse. Just as the cover of What A Wonderful World killed momentum on All The Way To The Sun, the horrible 50's crooning of June steps in to do the same here - except perhaps the fact that there was no momentum to kill in the first place.
This would sound more at home on a Bobby Darin record. June is a totally ill-conceived idea for a TNT record and has to be this year's biggest WTF moment.
Can't Go On Without returns to the poppy strains of the early part of the record. It is a fairly straight forward, happy go lucky pop rocker with an ok lead vocal from Tony, but again, I'm not sold on the chorus.
2 Seconds Away has it's experimental moments, but largely is a more traditional TNT pop rocker and should hold some appeal for long time fans.
Milestone River is a slow, somewhat psychedelic ballad to close the album. I actually like the feel of this one. The mood and the atmosphere may not appeal to all, but the song does manage to break some boundaries and touch on that Darkness style again, yet this one works.
Let's Party Mills is not a song at all, but rather another annoying spoken word piece that runs 90 seconds and sees Tony Mills run off the album credits in his cockney accent again. This to me is the guys getting fully tanked at the local pub and thinking it was a good idea at the time. Trust me guys – it isn't. One listen and who seriously will listen to it ever again?
I have not enjoyed writing any of this review at all, but I really have struggled with this album.
My Religion was my Album Of The Year for 2004, so I do not want to hear any comments about how I may not dig this band. I love them…but I do not like this record. I doubt I will be in the minority either.
|Gotthard Domino Effect||Nuclear Blast|
You have to hand it to Swiss rockers Gotthard. How many bands could live through a change of line-up, management and record label, only to deliver arguably their best album ever and one which even saw them pick up a new range of fans?|
Lipservice was one of the coolest albums of 2005 - even if I did only rate it a 92 - and therefore suffer the wrath of unhappy G fans, who believed it should have been a sure thing for a perfect score.
Tell you guys what – I'll meet you half way – it should have been a 95 (is it too late to change?!) as the album continued to grow on me and impress further long after the review was added. So, in the case of the band's new album pardon me for taking my time with this review. I have had the album some 6 or 8 weeks now I guess and have absolutely made up my mind on it and how it fits into the scheme of the Gotthard catalogue.
You have to hand it to the guys again for not getting too comfortable with what was achieved on Lipservice and changing it up yet again.
I would have put money on the band recording a direct sequel to the last release, but no, Domino Effect takes the band back in a heavier, darker and somewhat more contemporary direction.
The guitar sound is the most noticeable difference here. I said initially that the band had updated and down-tuned, but I think that is now a little simplistic an explanation. Yes, the tone is different from Lipservice, but it is more a menacing and darker tone than actually being down-tuned.
Still, if I personally was given the choice over which guitar sound I would prefer, I'd stick with that used on Lipservice. I thought the band nailed it there, where as here I occasionally wish for a couple of more commercial rockers.
That said – there is nothing at all wrong with the songwriter here. Once again the guys deliver a selection of powerful and energetic numbers, all featuring a hook and chorus to hang your hat on, even if it is in a less obviously commercial manner as Lipservice.
Domino Effect flows effortlessly and I think although there is the usual number of ballads involved, on this occasion they are perfectly placed within the record and supplement the rockers rather than slowing things down.
For those wanting a second dose of Lipservice, it is the ballads which stick closest to that album's formula. I'm really impressed by the ballads here actually, they are all top quality.
I guess we should dissect this release track by track:
The opening chords of Master Of Illusion sets the tone for the whole record. A foot-stomping riff gets things pumping and immediately you know the guitar sound has changed this time around.
Vocalist Steve Lee has always had a raspy delivery and this is no different, but even he sounds a little more menacing in a take no prisoners kind of way. Nothing can take away from a cool chorus which is classic Gotthard.
Gone Too Far has a less obvious chorus and sees a little of the band's favourite influences in Led Zeppelin again seep into the song, which rocks along at a nice pace.
The killer title track Domino Effect rounds off an opening sonic assault – three hard rockers lined up in a row, with the best being this track.
The guitar sound may be dark, but the heart of the song is Gotthard at their best and the chorus is great.
Ballads are always going to be a big part of the Gotthard makeup and we now get a double dose, with two back to back ballads. Both are a little different from each other though and running them together works.
Falling is a dark and intense ballad with a dramatic chorus and remains quite heavy for a ballad. Some orchestration helps build the track and I'm guessing this will also be a single at some point. The Call is the lead single from the album and the most obvious commercially friendly track of the album. This is essentially a typical power ballad with a big sentimental chorus and a heartfelt verse. Steve's lead vocals and their raspy edge are perfectly suited to portray the emotion of the song.
The Oscar Goes To You is a feisty modern-ish rocker with a strong beat and uptempo pace. There are some production effects in play here, but a cracking chorus turns a dark classic rock song into a more anthemic proposition.
The Cruiser (Judgement Day) is another dark modern rocker but without a more obvious chorus. It keeps the pace and theme of the hard rocking album in play, but I don't find it to be one of the more likable tracks.
Heal Me is amore straight up hard rocker with a simple AC/DC style riff driving the song. Simple, effective, uptempo and rocking. Enough said!
Letter To A Friend is a cool track, building from a soft intro in to a quite intense rocker. It features a wicked heavy guitar riff – dark and moody and quite intense. The vibe of the song is added to by some multi-layered keyboard and organ parts and a ripping guitar solo mid-song.
Tomorrow's Just Begun is a far more relaxed track, which makes for a nice break from the intensity that is the album as a whole. This easy going breezy rock ballad has a simple chorus, but a strong overall melody.
A thumping drum beat kicks off Come Alive, which is a little different again. This is a groover of a track with a real swagger to it – reminding me of some earlier Gotthard material. Not the catchiest track on the album, but the groove will make it appealing to some.
Bad To The Bone is thankfully not a cover of the Thorogood staple, but rocks along nicely enough. Again, I'm not sold on this track and I'm hoping this isn't a decline in the album as a whole. Sometimes I think the band have a lot of tracks on their albums where a couple less would do no harm.
Thankfully the song Now proves my theory wrong, as this uptempo rocker slips right into the same tempo as the opening few tracks and is a strong track.
Again closing out the album with a ballad, the band chose wisely with the very classy Where Is Love When Its Gone. This is a nice, soft and sentimental track with a great melody.
I wasn't happy that Lipservce closed with two ballads in a row, this time it is only one and a damn fine track at that, so in my mind Domino Effect closes with a great rocker followed by a great ballad.
The album is clearly another winner for the guys, who continue on their merry way, blowing the competition out of the water and proving there are one of the most consistent rock acts in Europe, if not the world.
If Lipservice should have been a 95, I'll rate this a 94 and hope it is sufficient a score so as to please those core G fans!
|Allen / Lande The Revenge||Frontiers Records|
You could be forgiven for thinking the Allen / Lande debut would be a one-off project. After all, the vast majority of these all-start projects are just that.|
But credit too all involved – they are back for more and have the potential to start a true franchise here, as long as mainstay Magnus Karlsson can continue to deliver the songwriting and musical performance that has now delivered two great albums.
Singers Russell Allen and Jorn Lande of course are the icing on the cake. They mesh together perfectly – at times taking songs themselves, but for at least half the record, their vocals are entwined beautifully, creating a rich vocal tapestry for the listener to untwine thread by thread as they get to know the songs.
The debut was an almost perfect album. Powerful, emotional and extremely melodic for such a typically metal styled release.
The Revenge picks up from where the debut left off, using the same blueprint of power and melody, but at the same time it is also a little different – a little unique in its own way.
First of all, the sound is a little less melodic, less polished than the very slick debut and the production is also a little different. Dennis Ward mixed this record – to his usual high standards I might add – but that gives it a slightly different vibe than the debut, which was handled all in-house by Karlsson.
The songs this time around are less instant and less driven by soaring choruses. They are a little more complex and the record requires more time to get to know than the fairly immediate debut. It could be argued that from start to finish this record is missing a couple of bigger stand out tracks and perhaps a few more brilliant choruses.
But once again there are some absolute classic songs here and tremendous performances by all, but I think overall, the songwriting doesn't quite match the near perfection of the first release. For me, the album really kicks in with the powerful and utterly fabulous rock ballad Master Of Sorrow, sung by Jorn.
Preceeding that The Revenge and Victory (as good as they are) are very similar to what was already served up on the debut and the Russell Allen sung hard rocker Obsessed doesn't have the knockout hook to drive it home.
But following the ballad it really gets interesting. The double time intensity and raspy vocal from Allen on Will You Follow is great and builds a platform to even heavier and more intense duet Just A Dream, which is as good as anything from either album.
Jorn goes it alone again for Her Spell, which continues to impress, and Allen delivers maybe his best individual vocal of the two albums on the classic mixed tempo Gone Too Far.
Then there is the urgent and powerful anthemic rocker Wake Up Call, the track that blows the album apart with two dynamic performances and a maybe the best chorus of the record.
The Jorn sung Under The Waves is a little more reserved, but still a strong melodic metal track in typical Jorn fashion.
The guys re-unite in tandem for the album's last 2 songs. Who Can You Trust rolls along effortlessly, adding a little muscle to the album's sound and a strong chorus underlined by a double kick drum beat.
When Time Doesn't Heal is nothing sort of magic. Heralded by Karlsson as the best ballad he ever wrote, it could be just that. Both Jorn and Russell pour their emotions into the song which builds through its 6 minute running time to close the album with a fitting conclusion.
|Two Of A Kind Two Of A Kind||Frontiers Records|
For those that were disappointed in the direction Heart have taken in recent years, take note of this record! This is a wonderful release that mixes the styles of European melodic rock with the direction and vocal sound of classic 80s era Heart!|
I'm not sure which of the two lead vocalists is Ann Wilson and which is Nancy, but together they sound amazing and at times I swear I was listening to the Brigade record or even the poppier Bad Animals.
The songs and musical backing comes from the brains trust of Fred Hendrix (Terrra Nova), hence the strong European melodic rock influence over the sound.
Having been disappointed in the last couple of Hendrix directed records, it is with great pleasure that I state that he has nailed it this time around.
This is simply melodic bliss, with some fine rock songs surrounded in harmonies and multiple hooks.
The rockers are good, but the mid-tempo tracks and slower ballads are simply divine and I imagine fans of pure AOR and female fronted bands are going to adore this record. Even when the band are rocking (Light in the Dark, Heaven Can Wait, Whole Again, To The Top), the sound is bathed in keyboards and harmonies.
But it is the pure AOR tracks that go right over the top. The Longest Night is simply glorious with its light Van Hagar style guitar riff and monster chorus; Give Me a Reason is pure 80s Heart complete with dual harmonies and so many hooks it is amazing; the breezy, uptempo acoustic driven Into the Fire is perfect and the more laid back mid-tempo In Your Arms is equally lush.
Little By Little is perhaps the only track that fails to match the great choruses of the songs that surround it.
As for slower numbers – Unbearable and I Die A Little More Everyday both fit the bill as far as lighter-in-the-air 80s power ballads.
|Meldrum Blowin' Up The Machine||Frontiers Records|
Frontiers Records have had a really impressive run of late and that has been reflected in the reviews of their titles here. Some great stuff indeed.|
That unfortunately comes to a screeching halt with this release. This is truly awful.
Ok, so this is melodic rock.com right? Sure….but if Megadeth can be reviewed here and the likes of Allen/Lande and Masterplan receive album of the year nods, then anything metal is fair game. I just think this is a plain bad record. Metal or not. Heaviness aside, it features some of the worst female lead "vocals" that I have ever heard. The opening track Purge is a mix of speaking and then yelling.
Down Your Throat sounds as if vocalist Moa Holmsten is bringing something up her throat. At least on Scar she attempts to sing. There just isn't anything here that I would rate highly enough to recommend to anyone.
Blowin' Up The Machine is filled with aggressive modern/alternative metal, driven by distorted guitar riffing, screaming vocals and a dark, tense, aggressive set of lyrics that really are hard to stomach.
Lemmy joins in on track 6 for a duet of growling and screaming. That might be the only point of interest for some metal fans.
|Razorback Deadringer||AOR Heaven|
Much better! Razorback features guitarist Rolf Munkes (Empire, Tony Martin Band) and vocalist Stefan Berggren (Snakes In Paradise, Company of Snakes) and the Tommy Denander of the drum world Mike Terrana (Masterplan, Axel Rudi Pell) on drums. Bass duties are handled by Chris Helm (ex-Lanzer, ex-Shylock).|
The band's debut was a classic slice of melodic European hard rock and saw vocalist Berggren take his powerful but more melodic/AOR vocals to a new tougher level. I really enjoyed the album which made it all that much harder to swallow what the band delivered as their follow-up. The second album Criminal Justice saw the band change direction to a more modern and contemporary feel, along the way forgetting what made the debut so memorable - dropping much of the melody and important chorus hooks.
I almost didn't expect a third release – I figured that the last album might have killed these guys off completely, but thankfully not.
They survive and have learnt from the past, starting work here towards delivering an album more reminiscent of the debut.
Mission (almost) accomplished. The old sound is back and Stefan is again singing to the best of his melodic ability. Rolf turns in a solid guitar shredding performance, with some memorable riffs and flashy solos.
This still isn't an instant album and perhaps the one area that still needs work is delivering a series of knockout choruses.
There are vocal melodies and hook lines throughout the album, but the band fails to capitalize on the best ones, seemingly keeping a tight rein on the hooks when they should be driving them home.
The album opens with a dreadful spoken word passage that I simply can't stand. But from the opening strains of Deadringer memories of the debut flood back. Last Man Standing is even better, although the chorus is a perfect example of how I think hooks could have been magnified even further.
Take Me To The Other Side is good, but misses a better chorus, as does Hero, but Line Of Fire makes up for that with another throw back to the debut. But this is where things fall away a bit further. Burden and Miracle Baby are both strong through the verse, with the former rocking a little harder, but again, bigger more defined choruses would have really sold these songs. Rock N Roll Life In Hellsink is much the same as is the bluesier hard rocker Razor Blues.
The soulful ballad Let Me Give My Lovin' is the bright spot among the tracks of the second half of the album.
|Brett Walker Spirit Junky||NL Distribution|
Brett Walker is always someone I am going to enjoy hearing from. He has one of those pitch perfect AOR voices that just soars and is capable of driving the melody all on its own.|
Brett Walker burst onto the melodic scene primarily as a songwriter, with tunes covered by Alias, Michael Thompson and Jimi Jamison. Then came one of the more classic debut albums I can recall. Nevertheless was a great uptempo, anthem filled melodic pop/rock masterpiece that is still highly regarded by all to this day.
While I must say that I don't think any of Brett's solo record since has matched the brilliance of that record, it is fair to say that all records since have also been a little different, but still solid.
All Brett Walker releases feature that voice, so that makes them all very listenable, but in recent outings Brett has got increasingly soft and more pop/Westcoast based than driving AOR.
The basis for this record is very similar to that of his Lift Off and Railbirds albums – driven largely by acoustic guitars and a more softly spoken lead vocal. On the upside, it makes for a pleasant, easy and breezy experience and is a great album to throw on while relaxing or chilling out.
On the downside, the whole album is fairly one-paced. It takes subsequent listens to get into the flow of the variations. The album opens with possibly the most likable and most instant track in Give Me Back Tomorrow, the follow-on Something So Real also very likable.
Until We Live Again has a definite Rembrandts vibe and Sorry Just Ain't Enough is another strong walker ballad. Calalia is fairly laid back but features a strong vocal and a chorus that sticks in your head.
Livin In Maybe Land sees Brett break out the electric guitar for a bigger impact and a strong hook to match.
|MarysCreek Some Kind Of Hate||MTM Music|
MarysCreek is an unusual mix of influences and musical styles that crosses from early 90s grunge, to straight up hard rock/melodic metal to more contemporary modern rock.
Either way, if you are into the pink and fluffy side of melodic rock, this isn't one for you!|
The guys hail from Sweden (yes, everyone in Sweden has a record deal!) and funnily enough, at their more straight forward moments sound like the just reviewed Razorback (vocalist Stefan Berggran is a fellow Swede).
At other times the band sounds a little Pearl Jam-ish at times, a little like Nickelback elsewhere.
The whole album has a strong production and even mix, so if the modern side of life suits your ears, these guys offer something a little different, mixing modern aggressive hard rock with more melodic European influences.
They have a nice crunchy delivery and while the vocals aren't AOR by any stretch, they do have a likeable raspy quality.
Down and She make for the most obvious radio friendly hard rockers, while There Is No God unfortunately slips into vocal effects mode and is a little short on melody. The Things That You Do has a better groove and I Can Feel It reminds me of the last, more modern Razorback album.
All in all I don't think there is enough variation of tone throughout the album. I repeatedly get to track 8 or 9 and forget that I was last paying attention during track 4. In a world where modern rock acts are still in bountiful supply, you really have to deliver something out of the ordinary to capture people's imaginations. While professional and pleasant enough, this doesn't.
|Scelerata Darkness And Light||MTM Music|
The soft, peaceful intro lulls the listener into a false sense of security, as the opening bars of the album immediately start beating the listener over the head with a baseball bat.
From the first riff, this album is relentless - furious and completely in your face.|
This kind of swirling triple-time metal inspired by the likes of Iron Maiden, Helloween and Dream Theater comes courtesy of Brazilian metal outfit Scelerata.
This kind of relentless hammering of the ears is not for everyone and even some genuine metal-heads should investigate before buying. It sure isn't early morning wake-up music.
To be honest, I get about halfway through this album and it starts to become noise. There is simply no letting up from the flurry of guitars, swirling keyboards, double and triple time drum attacks. Worst of al are the lead vocals. They are completely and always over the top and it becomes annoying.
They need to peg things back on occasion to give the album more variation and space for the listener to breathe. A straight ahead dose of in your face European metal here. Only for the die-hards I'm afraid.
|Sequel Back||Perris Records|
Sequel's sound is very organic and very stripped back. This isn't a hard rock release by any stretch, but it isn't without a backbone either.|
The band features David Lee Roth Band and original Hardline member Todd Jensen on vocals and Bass; Tommy TuTone singer Greg Georgeson on lead vocals; Grant Roholt on drums and David Wall on guitar.
Their sound is very simple and has more in common with harder edge John Mellencamp than anything else. There is the hint of AC/DC in some of the more guitar fueled tracks, but when the acoustic guitars come out, it is Midwestern rock all the way.
The album features solid performances by all and a good even mix and balanced production.
If the style suits – say John Mellencamp meets laid back Black Crowes and a little AC/DC riffing thrown in for good measure – then this release will definitely appeal as the songs have a definite charm about them and as previously stated, the album is well crafted.
There isn't much to the release – just over 30 minutes of songs and absolutely no frills as far as overdubs or effects – but sometimes simple is best.
|Joe Lynn Turner Second Hand Life||Frontiers Records|
Although I'm talking about an outstanding record here, this review doesn't need to be a lengthy one. Joe Lynn Turner has been at the forefront of quality melodic rock releases more so in the last 5 years than at any time in his nearly 30 years in the business.|
Joe's own brand of melodic rock mixed with bluesy classic rock influences is riding high in the minds of fans thanks to last year's great Usual Suspects solo release and the brilliant more AOR themed Sunstorm project.
So with little introduction needed, here is Joe's brand new studio album Second Hand Life.
As promised by Joe, Second Hand Life is a mix of his last solo album – perfectly produced straight ahead blues based rock – and Sunstorm, more melodic and anthemic AOR songs featuring a more 80s friendly sound.
Second Hand Life is the very definition of Joe Lynn Turner as a performer and artist. It captures a little bit of every musical aspect that he has represented.
This album has everything! The flawless production and perfectly balanced mix are present again and the songs paint a portrait of the artist's career.
Love Is Life and the title track Second Hand Life are perfect AOR anthems. In the case of the opening track, Tor Talle and RockStar's Deanna Johnston have helped Joe deliver one of 2007's standout anthems and the title track is down to AOR magician Jim Peterik again playing a role in co-writing yet another melodic rock classic.
Joe's blues roots again shine through on the dramatic Got Me Where You Want Me and Cruel. Both tunes holding their own on an album packed with great songs.
Of course there has to be room for the sentimental, and the ballads In Your Eyes and Love Is On Our Side provide perfect balance for the album.
In the case of In Your Eyes, Joe delivers one of his best ballads ever – the track overflows with soul and emotion.
The European bonus track Two Lights is a great commercial 80s rocker in the vein of Joe's early sound and Blood Red Sky is another album highlight – from the lingering opening guitar solo to the blues based verse to the anthemic chorus.
And the rest of the album is straight ahead rock – delivered in the classic JLT style.
Sweet Obsession and Over The Top are great and Stroke Of Midnight (originally written for Deep Purple) is a yet another highlight.
|Stan Bush In This Life||Frontiers Records|
There sure are some quality releases around at the moment, so lap them up while you can.|
Stan Bush is another individual that needs no introduction. He remains one of the genre's classic artists, delivering some of the best emotional AOR anthems around, over a period of some 20 years. Seriously, after just reviewing another album for another stalwart of the scene in Joe Lynn Turner, it does make me wonder how many modern rock artists will still be rocking in 20 or 30 years time like these guys still do. Mmm…not too many…they sure don't don't build them like they used to.
In the case of Stan, the man has the perfect voice for melodic rock – that hint of authority when needed, but otherwise dripping with emotion and providing melodies with almost every line sung. His new album In This Life sees him follow up what was deemed to be one of his best ever releases in Shine.
When an artist gets to their 9th all-original studio release, you are generally hard pressed to see them deliver their best work, but the last album and this record are just that. Stan has nailed what it is he should be doing, the style that fans want him to do it in, and most importantly, has delivered a record of 11 perfect AOR songs.
Not every song is an AOR anthem, nor is every track is stuck in a similar groove. This is a really well balanced record with a few ballads; a few killer anthems and some simple mid-paced melodic rockers spread in-between.
It makes you look forward to the next anthem, next ballad, or next rocker while enjoying whatever track is playing at the time.
This is also probably the best sounding Stan Bush record to date – production here is just perfect. Contemporary enough so that the material doesn't sound dated, but at the same time, you just know what decade the heart of the record lies.
Kicking off with the classic Stan Bush styled melodic rocker I'll Never Fall, it is like 1987 all over again, except underneath the familiar vocal is some production tricks that give the song an updated feel. The same can be said of the whole record – there are plenty of swirling 80s keyboard sounds, yet just as many attributes that place the record in a fresh setting.
You just don't get any better than the classic uptempo AOR of Stan Bush on I Got A Thing For You and This Moment, which to me are perfect reminders of Stan's best work on the Stan Bush & Barrage record and Every Beat of My Heart.
Then there are the heartfelt and lush ballads I Can't Cry and The First Time, which are straight out of the 80s soundtrack, lighters-in-the-air handbook.
A triple play of rockers comes late in the album with Long, Long Way showing a little more aggression that Stan normally delivers and Over You is another great rocker with an updated vibe.
Take It All The Way has a commanding presence and a powerful guitar driven chorus.
Then there is In This Life, a song that defines Stan Bush as an artist and instantly becomes one of his best songs ever! Another throw back to the best of his early days, but entirely contemporary at the same time, this song rocks and has a hands in the air chorus to die for.
After a passage featuring the rockiest tracks I can recall from Stan, Southern Rain is a tender and emotional way to close the album – with Stan's voice and an acoustic guitar left alone to deliver the song's message.
I'm raving over several releases this month, but all are truly deserving of the attention and this is certainly one of the best of the best. AOR album of the year?
|The Ladder Sacred||Escape Music|
The Ladder is another star vehicle for famed FM frontman Steve Overland. Not to be confused with the ultra smooth and sugary sweet styling of Shadowman, The Ladder features fellow FM members Pete Jupp and Bob Skeat in a less polished and more rock n roll setting.|
The debut featured unreleased songs from the FM library, re-recorded by the above line up with the addition of guitarist Vinny Burns.
For this, the band's second album, we get a clean slate – all new songs and a new guitarist too. In comes Gerhard Pichler (Poley/Pichler) and with him a new sound.
I never thought I would use this term, but for the most part, this is modern AOR. Not modern rock and not old-school AOR, but something fresh for this genre.
Gerhard's influence over the material and his contemporary guitar tuning has taken The Ladder in a new direction.
The tone is darker and heavier and the style quite modern as far as the guitar approach. Steve Overland as always remains as soulful and as smooth as ever.
It is a bit of a contrast and took a little getting used to, but the quality of songwriting, a strong production and the attention to detail as far as choruses and hooks wins you over.
Body & Soul eases the listener is with its 'half way' approach, but the dark and heavy Sacred is as modern as it comes as far as guitar tone. But Steve's smooth vocal and a good chorus keeps it melodic.
The very good ballad Something To Believe In eases the harder approach momentarily before a couple of modern sounding pop rockers breeze through. All Of My Life in particular a stand out track.
Run To You is another fine uptempo pop rocker, with a lighter feel, which moves smoothly into Here I Am, one of the albums' stand out choruses and a track that employs a very old-school guitar sound, abandoning the heavier line for a while.
Sea Of Love, Abandoned and Mean Streets are more contemporary, but pretty commercial also.
In-between those tracks is the very moody and contemporary Make A Wish, itself with a strong chorus to hang on to.
|WildKard Megalomania||Escape Music|
WildKard is the perfect poster child release for those that think all the great music of the past has already been heard. How could these songs have been left in the vaults for so long?
The core of WildKard is three of my favourite British musicians – Kick members Nick Workman – Vocals, Chris Jones – Guitars and Mikey J. – Bass.|
I'm a big fan of Kick, but they have always pushed forward with a more modern feel which puts off some that prefer the classic 80s sound or nothing at all.
The guys have recently all appeared on their own projects while the future of Kick is debated. Perhaps this release will give all three some enthusiasm for embracing a more melodic, classic AOR sound for a future release, as this is pure melodic bliss!
WildKard was originally known as The Zero Hour Project and these songs were written in the early 90s but never finished or released. I guess the guys figured that the melodic rock ship had sailed by then and the classic 80s sound was to be killed off for good as far as the mainstream was concerned. They were right.
But good music can't be kept at bay and these songs were finally re-recorded earlier this year in partnership with the original guys and some additional musicians in Finland.
The result is a real blast from the past. The guys have their own sound, but if you have heard Kick, imagine that band with a more dominant keyboard direction and a pure 80s melodic rock / AOR direction.
Some of the keyboards are performed by Steve Newman, so that allows a direct comparison to the Newman albums, which is definitely present in the band's sound.
At time they rock – such as the opener Falling Down and All I Have, along with Something Strange and Letting Go.
I love those tracks, but it is the killer AOR anthems End Of The World, 7Days, Something Strange and the wonderful big ballads Whispers In The Dark, Wake Me Up When It's Over and When Everything Has Changed that really blow my mind.
I just love this stuff and being a huge fan of Nick Workman's voice, it is a true pleasure to hear him sing for the first time in a 100% old-school way.
|Night Ranger Hole In The Sun||Frontiers Records|
Could this, the first Night Ranger studio album in some 10 years be the most controversial release of the year? Could it be the most controversial release of the band's career?
It shouldn't be, but in both cases, it just might end up that way.|
Why? Because once again a much loved band with a long musical history has dared to update their sound and some fans are not going to be willing to come along for the ride.
As also stated within the REO Speedwagon review, there will be some fans that are happy to see their favourite band evolve and produce new sounds (as long as the quality is there) and there will be others that will remain sticklers for the artist's classic sound.
Night Ranger's case is further complicated by the fact they have constantly evolved throughout their career and not everyone has loved every record (except perhaps me!).
Night Ranger are constantly being held to the sound of their first three records – the records that saw them break through into mainstream success and pick up a legion of fans along the way. But after the third record 7 Wishes I recall the band at the time saying there was a need for a change and change they did.
Since 7 Wishes in 1985 the band made another 4 studio albums (5 if you include the Feeding Off The Mojo release) and none of them have sounded remotely the same!
Depending on the day of the week and my mood, my favourite Night Ranger album varies. Most days it will be Big Life, but sometimes it will be 7 Wishes. Other days Man In Motion is picked and I'm really fond of Neverland also. Then there is the classic debut and Midnight Madness and one can never forget Feeding Off The Mojo, featuring a fractured band line-up.
I know not everyone will feel the same way as I do, but personally speaking I love each and every Night Ranger record. They have never let me down and Hole In The Sun is no exception.
Now when I am in a loud, kick-ass mood and I have a penchant for something big, uptempo, in your face and very contemporary, Hole In The Sun will be my favourite for the day.
A few things have to be said about Hole In the Sun. It is a seriously in your face kick-ass rock n roll record. There are guitars everywhere on this record and less keyboards than on any other Night Ranger release to date.
It is also a very contemporary release, with some down-tuning of the guitars and some moments of sheer modern rock commercialism.
Knowing how the roots of the band are firmly entrenched in 80s melodic rock along with some of the fanbase, it is inevitable that the style of this record will cause a stir and I expect debate will continue throughout the year ahead.
I have had the advantage of living with this record for more than 2 months now. That's a lot of valuable listening time and in some ways it was needed as I was definitely thrown by the directness of the songs and the style at first.
The album took a few listens to get my head around, and then a few more before all the songs really began to click.
Sometimes the best albums are the ones that challenge you and demand extra attention.
I am acutely aware that for all I have written here, there will be some that will not give this album the time it deserves and some opinions are going to be wildly passionate for both sides.
Until I see the feedback once this gets released, I will not be able to see if my feelings are in the majority or the minority, but put a tick in the positive column for me – as like all other Night Ranger albums, I love this record too.
Track By Track:
Tell Your Vision sets the album up perfectly. It describes in audio what this album is all about – loud guitars and in your face riffs, modernized for the band's first album of the 21st Century. The song launches with a massive guitar riff and from there it only gets heavier. Kelly Keagy has never sounded so menacing, howling along through the verse before Jack Blades takes over for a psychedelic bridge before both vocalists dive into the short, but harmony filled chorus hook. Initially I thought the song was way out there for Night Ranger, but with subsequent listens it becomes more familiar and includes the odd influence from Dawn Patrol and Man In Motion.
Drama Queen simply has guitars everywhere! It isn't as heavy as the opening track, but rocks along at a faster pace. The song has a modern rock vibe but classic Night Ranger dual guitar riffs that are constant throughout the song - so much so it is almost like one long solo, with the guys laying on multiple layers of riffs.
The chorus is something new to get into and gets better with every listen and elsewhere in places like the bridge, it sounds just like old Night Ranger.
Gonna Hear From Me is another stomping rocker which reminds me a little of the Damn Yankees sound, with that brutal in your face hard riffing that Ted Nugent is so good at. Except this is Brad and Jeff and the duo serve up a straight ahead, old school rock n roll riff to blow your head off. Along with Tell Your Vision, this to me is one of the heaviest tracks I have heard from the band and quite simply it rocks with massive attitude!
Whatever Happened is the first of a couple of major curve balls, but the more I listen, the more I love it and the more it sounds natural for the band as they are in 2007. Starting with an attitude laced Jack Blades vocal and punkish bass slap, the song reminds me of something Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson might record and score a hit with. The hooks are there during the verse, but the chorus is from heaven. This is a full-on commercial modern pop rocker mixed with Night Ranger's all-in harmonies and sonic guitar onslaught, complete with another left turn with a mid-song bridge.
There Is Life is quite simply Sister Christian 2007. While it isn't a replica of the band's smash hit from the early 80s, it has the same style, class and vibe, down to the piano into and the building verse to the big sentimental chorus. Kelly Keagy delivers a fine lead vocal and once again the band's trademark harmonies are in full force.
Rock Star is left turn number two and matches the contemporary modern rock vibe of Whatever Happened. This is a great track, I love it. There's attitude to the max in this spunky, punky rocker with a killer chorus. At the heart of the song is a great lyric and general sentiment and another catchy chorus, although this song is the most tuned down and modern song of all those on the album.
The album's title track Hole In The Sun is another rocker with a ton of attitude and another kick-ass chorus with an extra layer of guitars. A simple premise only gets better with each listen, this song has a little more of the band's classic sound in it and a nod of the head towards the Seven and Neverland sound.
I wasn't into Fool In Me to start with, but have grown to like it a lot as simple acoustic ballad accompanied only by some cool percussion and fine harmonies. It actually reminds me of something that could have come from a Shaw/Blades release, except Kelly is singing.
White Knuckle Ride has a tuned down and dark guitar riff and some production effects and sees both Jack and Kelly sharing lead vocals. The song rocks and has a heavy riff through the chorus, but takes a few listens before it makes complete sense.
Revelation 4 AM is a simpler track, which starts slow and gently, with a smooth Kelly Keagy vocal. The chorus again takes a little work, but is pretty cool – more acoustic driven than electric, but still quite uptempo. There's a lot to listen to underneath this track's obvious musical parts, so it takes some time to get to know fully.
Wrap It Up is probably the most traditional Night Ranger song of the whole album. This is a dual lead guitar riff-rocker, with a solid tempo and a good fun chorus. Lots of guitar parts here and a traditional sound base that could fit on Man In Motion perhaps.
Being closes the album in a fairly laid back setting. It is a simple (for Night Ranger at least!) acoustic ballad with various additional musical backing such as soft percussion and non-intrusive keyboard parts. An ok song, but perhaps the weakest track of the album.
Their desire to move forward and create something new and fresh shines through on this hard rocking record – perhaps the band's heaviest release ever.
Negative point - that album cover! ok, so...some aren't going to get it, some won't want to get it, but for others, I'm sure it will be a highlight of 2007. Let the debate commence…
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