Reviews

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Artist Title Score Label
First Signal FIRST SIGNAL - One Step Over The Line (Review) 91 Frontiers
Jorn JORN - Heavy Rock Radio (Review) 87 Frontiers
Dan Reed Network DAN REED NETWORK - Fight Another Day (Review) 76 Frontiers
Withem WITHEM - The Unforgiving Road (Review) 89 Frontiers
Yngwie Malmsteen YNGWIE MALMSTEEN - World On Fire (Review) 45 Yngwie
Vega VEGA - Who We Are (Review) 96 Frontiers
Phantom 5 PHANTOM 5 - Phantom 5 (Review) 80 Frontiers
Ted Poley TED POLEY - Beyond The Fade (Review) 96 Frontiers
Sunstorm SUNSTORM - Edge Of Tomorrow (Review) 77 Frontiers
Epic EPIC - Like A Phoenix (Review) 86 Escape
Zingo ZINGO - Zingo (Review) 80 Renegade Sounds
Rage Of Angels RAGE OF ANGELS - The Devils New Tricks (Review) 92 Escape
Chris Ousey CHRIS OUSEY - Dream Machine (Review) 90 Escape
Coda CODA - Coda (Review) 40 Z Records
Treat TREAT - Ghost Of Graceland (Review) 99 Frontiers
Drive She Said DRIVE SHE SAID - Pedal To The Metal (Review) 82 Frontiers
Shiraz Lane SHIRAZ LANE - For Crying Out Loud (Review) 70 Frontiers
Innerwish INNERWISH - Innerwish (Review) 88 Ulterium
Circus Maximus CIRCUS MAXIMUS - Havoc (Review) 93 Frontiers
Lords Of Black LORDS OF BLACK - II (Review) 83 Frontiers
The Treatment THE TREATMENT - Generation Me (Review) 87 Frontiers
Royal Hunt ROYAL HUNT - Cargo (Review) 85 Frontiers
Magnum MAGNUM - Sacred Blood & Divine Lies (Review) 80 SPV
Inglorious INGLORIOUS - Inglorious (Review) 90 Frontiers
Rick Springfield RICK SPRINGFIELD - Rocket Science (Review) 100 Frontiers
Primal Fear PRIMAL FEAR - Rulebreaker (Review) 94 Frontiers
Resurrection Kings RESURRECTION KINGS - Resurrection Kings (Review) 87 Frontiers
Nordic Union NORDIC UNION - Nordic Union (Review) 94 Frontiers
Mike Tramp MIKE TRAMP - Nomad (Review) 88 Target
Ten TEN - The Dragon And Saint George EP (Review) 90 Rocktopia

Pages

Thu
16
Jun

FIRST SIGNAL - One Step Over The Line (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
91%
Produced By: 
Daniel Flores
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
91
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Harry Hess returns with a sequel to 2010’s First Signal debut. The lead role of Mr. Hess is about all that is in common from the debut to this album.
 
Normally I’d jump in and complain that if you are using a project name, you should stick to the original personnel of that project, as swapping musicians/producers/writers generally leads to a completely different sounding album (Sunstorm and Allen/Lande for example).
But in this case, I’ll let it pass as the results speak for themselves.
 
Daniel Flores (Find Me, Murder Of My Sweet) and his new buddy Michael Palace are the duo behind all the music, whilst the songs are provided by an array of the current artists within the Frontiers stable.
 
Flores produces and delivers results that sonically improve on that of the debut – even if the style is a little different. The Dennis Ward moody AOR debut is trumped by this bubbly, more keyboard driven 80s sounding affair with at times a more aggressive edge, but overall an improved sound that isn’t far from the AOR of the two Find Me releases.
Harry is of course in fine voice over 11 tracks that hold a pretty consistent sound and quality. At times the keyboards are a little “too 80s”, but there is no doubt that this is a very fine release.
 
Highlights include the punchy She’s Getting Away; the sentimental ballads Still Pretending and Weigh Me In; the early Harem sounding One Step Over The Line and Love Gets Through; the angst of Broken and the moodiness of Kharma.

Hess, Harem and fans of the First Signal debut shouldn’t give owning this a second thought. Why haven’t you got it already? Essential for anyone who appreciate fine vocals and some catchy traditional melodic rock.

 
Categories: 
 
Thu
16
Jun

JORN - Heavy Rock Radio (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
87%
Produced By: 
Jorn
Running Time: 
57
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
The man is back, again! One should stop saying that as Jorn never really departs, such is the consistency of his releases. That’s not always a positive, but the last couple of records have started to return me to my former status of worshipping the great man.
One thing the world probably doesn’t need is another covers album, even more so another Jorn covers album (this is his third, plus half of the debut album), but you know what – you can’t help but like large parts of this collection.
It’s Jorn being Jorn and its produced extremely well.
 
Jorn has managed to pick out some less predictable covers from areas of pop/rock from the 70s through to today and a few cuts from his more familiar influences.
Some work, some don’t. But the ones that do work are sensational, as Jorn metalifies some pop classics such as I Know There’s Something Going On and Running Up That Hill. I think there should have been more like these two on here. Jorn sounds fabulous.
Foreigner’s Rev On The Red Line is something he could record in his sleep (his version of Break It Up from the debut is still untouchable) and sounds great as does his version of the John Farnham legacy number You’re The Voice (since covered by many). I love his liner notes about each track and especially the praise he gives Farnham as a live vocalist. I wasn’t sure the song would suit Jorn, but it does.
 
Paul Stanley’s Live To Win is one track I thought Jorn would slay, but for some reason this heavier and rawer version seems to lose some of the melodies that the original carried.
Don’t Stop Believing is a fine version with a surprisingly high Jorn vocal. But honestly, I’m so sick of this fucking song – even the original I could do without hearing ever again. For Jorn’s tribute to Steve Perry, check out Edge Of The Blade from the debut – one of the best Journey covers I’ve ever heard. Wish he’d tried out Ask The Lonely instead.
 
Killer Queen is pretty decent too, but I have a hard time with anyone aside from JSS covering Queen. Jorn brings a good swagger to the track.
Hotel California is one you’ll either love or hate – but I dig it. Jorn’s rasp works and the guitar work on this iconic song does the original justice.
 
Well, we lasted this long without Rainbow/Sabbath/Dio/Purple, so we may as well close the album with songs from 3 of the 4 featured, plus an authentic Iron Maiden cover for good measure, giving the last 15 or so minutes a more familiar metal feel.

All in all – good stuff. A few fairly safe choices and some risks that pay off. I prefer the pop/rock tracks being beefed up rather than the metal tunes just being covered.
A lot of thought has gone into this album and Jorn sounds great as always.
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
16
Jun

DAN REED NETWORK - Fight Another Day (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
76%
Produced By: 
Dan Reed
Running Time: 
57
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Pop / Rock / Funk
Score: 
76
Label: 
Frontiers
 
Can’t say I was ever a Dan Reed Network fan – his funk/rock style was something that I just didn’t embrace back in the day. However, I have admired a couple of Dan’s latter day solo albums. Some intelligent songwriting and out of the box musical arrangements there.
I had no expectations going into this, and what it delivers is a bit of both Dan Reed’s worlds.
 
Given the crossover in styles, it does appear a little disjointed and a little hit and miss. The hit resonates with me in a big way. The misses make the album drag, especially through the latter stages.
 
What hits – the brilliant melodies and subtle arrangements of the opening track Divided and the mature melodies of The Brave; the beautiful atmospheric ballad Champion and the equally pleasant keyboard styled B There With U.
The softer pop/rock of Heaven also connects as does the moody Stand Tall.
 
Misses include the funky ballad Infected; Give It Love; the funk/reggae swagger of Save The World which goes nowhere and the programmed beats of Reunite.
There’s a few others too, making this album about half cool, half not so.

An interesting album in parts, but perhaps not what the Dan Reed Network moniker might suggest. For that reason I think it aims to please all, without hitting the mark. Or perhaps it’s just exactly how Dan feels and writes in 2016. Up to individual fans to decide on this one.
But those few tracks in the first half of the album are seriously good.
Categories: 
 
Thu
16
Jun

WITHEM - The Unforgiving Road (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
89%
Produced By: 
Oyvind Larsen
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Progressive Melodic Metal
Score: 
89
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
 
Withem are a new progressive/melodic metal band NOT from Sweden! Yes indeed. They are not from Sweden. They are from Norway!
Once again the Scandinavians prove to be on the cutting edge of new music in all forms of rock n roll.
This is the band’s second album and first for Frontiers. They describe their sound as a mix of inspirations from such greats as Symphony X, Pagan’s Mind, Dream Theater and Circus Maximus. Pretty accurate too.
 
To me they haven’t quite got the chops of Dream Theater, nor the melodic finesse of Circus Maximus, but they are well on their way. And this is an impressive album.
I’d put their sound closer to Dream Theater thanks to the vocals of Ole Wagenius. His powerful LaBrie style range drives these songs and adds the melody to the powerful guitars and swirling keyboards.
 
This is an impressive sounding album. Guitarist Oyvind Larsen acts as producer and mixer and has done a remarkable job. This is a really clear and crisp sounding record while retaining all the necessary power.
 
Highlights include the powerful hook driven In The Hands Of God (the chorus is pure Circus Maximus); the initially faster, but then inter-changing pace of The Pain I Collected; the beautiful vocals and melodic guitar parts that drive Riven; the Rob Moratti-esque progressive AOR of The Eye In The Sky.

It took several listens to appreciate fully and have the melodies become more obvious, but the high caliber production and some inspired performances make this an album that is likely to launch the band onto a bigger platform and wider audience.
 
Categories: 
Tags: 
 
Thu
16
Jun

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN - World On Fire (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
45%
Produced By: 
Yngwie
Running Time: 
Yngwie
Release Date: 
Yngwie
Released: 
Yngwie
Musical Style: 
Yngwie
Score: 
45
Label: 
Yngwie
 
Well, it’s not as bad as War To End All Wars. That record should have been titled Album To End All Careers. But somehow the great fret-fiddler Yngwie J Malmsteen continues on.
 
It’s hard to tell who is the most delusional. Yngwie himself for releasing this as is; his record label for actually paying for it to be manufactured or some of his fans who are reacting as if this album is the greatest slice of majestic, audio grandeur and shredtastic splendor since Les Paul took craft lessons in Jnr High.
 
Ok, so it’s not all bad….well it is if you were rating audio quality alone. I’m not sure where this was recorded. It sounds like it was recorded in my grandmother’s 1922 outhouse and pieced together on a 1981 Acorn BBC Micro 6502.
I just cannot understand how and artist, his manager wife and record label could all agree this was release ready. The production quality and muddy mix are just rotten.
 
To the songs themselves – well, the boy can play – no doubting that ever. And before the fanclub hit me up with death threats and witty insults about what really constitutes greatness, please be advised I have most of the Swedish Frethogger’s albums and I remain a strong fan of several in particular.
 
There are some good and bad here. The title track World On Fire is a great 1 minute idea that goes for 4 and a half and most of the instrumentals that follow are simply retreads of past work.
I’m being strangely hypnotized by Yngwie’s vocals on Lost In The Machine. Is he employing mind control to keep fans under influence? I don’t mind that song at all, except for the quality and the fact the vocals sound like they were sung into a Coke can rather than a microphone.
Largo and No Rest for the Wicked are simply the same riff as each other, just played faster and Duf 1220 is the most accurate song title on the whole album.
 
I really do like Yngwie. I think he’s doing an ok job, but his organization is one that cannot be criticized. I’m on their shit list because of my last few reviews – but that’s just part of the job.
This review won’t help of course. What he needs to do is embrace those that want to work with him. There are a number of great musicians from his past that that would happily collaborate with him. But no one wants to work for him.
 
Hopefully he can find the financing to hire a producer or at least a professional mix engineer, get a vocalist on board to work together and collaborate on some great songs that aren’t all widdling and get back to what really made Yngwie Malmsteen albums of the past so enjoyable. He needs an A&R guy to tell him what works and what doesn't. Givie me a call mate!
 
Categories: 
 
Fri
20
May

VEGA - Who We Are (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
96%
Produced By: 
Vega
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock / AOR
Score: 
96
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
I love everything about this band– and this album. Their very British classic AOR sound; their edge of your seat pacing and those choruses! Always great choruses.
Vega are at the forefront of the British melodic rock scene. Vocalist Nick Workman has one of the most likeable voices in AOR.
It’s harder to pinpoint the band’s best album now that they are up to number four – they’ve all impressed for similar reasons.
Once again the band’s dynamic works some melodic magic and conjures up another 11 cracking chorus and hook driven songs that cannot be removed from your head.
And producer Harry Hess (yes, him!) brings some element of restraint to the band. I’ve said previously that Nick has the habit of sounding on ‘full’ – all the time. Here there is more light and shade with his vocals and I think it makes him sound even more impressive and also gives the songs more balance.
 
Explode moves faster than ever; We Got It All is darker and moodier; Every Little Monster is pure AOR bliss and Nothing Is Forever is a great power ballad.
White Flag uses the typical Vega build-and-explode method of chorus delivery; For Our Sins is more subtle, but is a terrific memorable melodic anthem; Generation Now turns on the angst and delivers another killer chorus and Ignite turns full-throttle moody.
 
Its throw your hands in the air anthem time with Saving Grace and the lighter feel good If Not You; with Hurt So Bad rounding out an album of anthemic greatness. A wonderful conclusion to an album with zero filler.
 
On the subject of production, I think the snare is not quite in sonic alignment with the deeper tone of the rhythm section, and the vocals continue to be too far down in the mix. But minor points amongst a hundred other positive superlatives.

Nothing I haven’t already said before about this great band – torch bearers for classic AOR and melodic rock in Britain, with enough of a modern edge to make them vital now, not just as another band riding on the past. Another clear winner and possibly their most consistent and anthem filled album yet.
 

 

Categories: 
 
Fri
20
May

PHANTOM 5 - Phantom 5 (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
80%
Produced By: 
Michael Voss
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
80
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
 
Phantom 5 isn’t the best or most descriptive band name I’ve heard, but it’s far from the worst. Featuring a powerful lineup of Michael Voss (guitars; Casanova, Bonfire, Mad Max) and Claus Lessmann (vocals, ex-Bonfire) along with popular German compadres Robby Boebel (guitars from Frontline) and Axel Kruse (drums from everyone) as well as Francis Buchholz on bass.
 
Touted as a natural follow up to the classic Bonfire Fireworks album, with a touch of Frontline and Jaded Heart, the expectations were therefore set to maximum from the outset.
Sorry guys, but while the potential is there, the songs don’t carry the legacy any further than that.
There’s too much one-tempo familiarity amongst the songs, not enough variety in style and frankly, not enough power in the choruses to knock anyone over.
 
The album does start strongly though. All The Way certainly has the classic feel of an album opener – a nice fast melodic hard rocker with a typically anthemic chorus.
A nice dose of keyboards and a choppy guitar riff drive the pacey Blue Dog while it gets moodier on Someday.
Don’t Touch The Night harks back to classic 80s Bonfire, even if it lacks a little of the dynamics of the original band.
 
Unfortunately that’s probably the best part of the album over with. The rest settles into a very safe, mid-tempo routine of riffs and raspy vocals, but nothing really stands out.
Renegade, Flying High, Frontline and We Both Had Our Time all have a good sound but fail to ignite when time for the chorus.
Since You’re Gone is a pretty decent rock ballad, but then it’s straight back into the unremarkable second half of this album.
They Won't Come Back is probably the pick of the second half – a better chorus and a nice sentiment on this track.

A solid effort, with expected good production from the always reliable Michael Voss, but the songs and urgency required to make an impact worthy of the personnel involved aren’t there.
A good start, but a fairly routine and safe second half strips back some of the appeal of this album.
 
Categories: 
 
Wed
11
May

TED POLEY - Beyond The Fade (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
96%
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
96
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
 
Ted Poley has a lengthy and impressive resume, boasting a few all-time classics as well as some revered collaborations.
From Prophet to Danger Danger and through to Poley/Rivera and in recent years a couple of solo albums thrown in there for good measure.
Now Ted is teaming with Mr. Reliable; Alessandro Del Vecchio for a new solo album in a time where it’s more important than ever to stand out from the pack to get any traction.
 
Boy, does he do it in fine style here! Take a bow Ted and Alessandro – you have both done yourselves proud with this record – easily the best Ted Poley album outside of Danger Danger and now one of my favourite records of the year.
This is no project album with Ted delivering some vocals. No way. Ted flew to Europe to work with Alessandro and in his own words, there isn’t a note on this record he didn’t approve of or help engineer. With songs from the incomparable Martin Brothers and Ale himself, Ted has the backing of a powerhouse production, which at times some of his other projects have lacked.
 
And Ted delivers one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard from the evergreen frontman.
There’s a couple of songs on here I’d rate amongst Ted’s best songs ever – and that includes Danger Danger. But do I feel the urge to jump ahead to get to them? No, because the material here is so consistently enjoyable, I can’t possibly skip forward.
 
There’s almost two parts to this record. The opening sequence of the high octane fist pumping trilogy of D2 friendly anthems Let's Start Something, Everything We Are and Hands Of Love get things off to a flying start.
Then there’s the very fine, tempo slowing ballad The Perfect Crime, a duet with Issa (who seems to be the girl to call when a duet is required).
From there things turn a little more serious – but no less melodic or powerful. The tone just shifts slightly.
 
Stars is one of the best Poley tracks ever. Absolute perfection. The high impact chorus is just brilliant.
Higher is less intense, but equally as catchy with another great layered chorus.
The mellower, darker and sentimental Where I Lost You is another slice of melodic rock perfection. Once again, great listening and stands up as another legacy Ted Poley track.
You Won't See Me Cryin' is another winner, it moves a little quicker, maintaining the melodies but adding a touch of grit and a fine quite solo.
We Are Young lends itself to a darker tone while Sirens is just pure joy.
Beneath The Stars closes the album by delivering a 6 minute rock ballad.

No fillers, all killers and a couple of mind blowingly good classics. All class from start to finish.
Wonderful! No further comments needed. Just get it!
 
Categories: 
 
Wed
11
May

SUNSTORM - Edge Of Tomorrow (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
77%
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
77
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
 
It’s funny how these things line up. Two Alessandro Del Vecchio helmed albums released the same day. This time Ale teams with fellow Italian – guitarist Simone Mularoni, guitar player of Italian prog-metallers DGM to write and produce the new Sunstorm album for Joe Lynn Turner, who requested a harder edge to the fourth album in this project’s lifespan.
I don’t have by track writing credits, but Soren Kronqvist and Daniel Palmqvist also contribute songs.
 
Joe Lynn Turner never sounds less than on-form when delivering his vocals, as he is again right here. He sounds as good as ever, so it’s all down to the songs and the sound employed to do so.
Edge Of Tomorrow is a heavier, more guitar dominated record, with keyboards way back in the mix this time around. And without Dennis Ward, as well as the style shift, it’s a pretty different record than the trilogy of albums before it.
 
The first two Sunstorm albums are brilliant. The third was good, but to be perfectly honest, this is going to rank last compared to those. I think the Sunstorm brand has lost some of its personality here. There are some fine songs that kick things along, but several others that I’m struggling to appreciate and despite all albums featuring songs gathered entirely from outside writers, the ones here don’t have the hook impact expected.
 
Don't Walk Away From A Goodbye is a powerful opener with a decent uptempo pace which leads well into the pick of the album - Edge Of Tomorrow. This is one of the best songs of the year if I’m honest. I just wish there was more like it.
Nothing Left To Say doesn’t really go anywhere and fails to deliver a memorable chorus.
Heart Of The Storm is a feisty rocker that I do like, but the chorus and lack of harmony vocals where there should be some leaves it a little flat.
The Sound Of Goodbye is very much the same. The slower ballad shows promise but ultimately sounds really raw as if something is missing.
 
The Darkness Of This Dawn is a slower and more soulful tune with some classy Neal Schon inspired guitar riffs and brings back the harmony vocals which do make a difference.
You Hold Me Down has a decent chorus and a good pace which is followed by the piano ballad Angel Eyes, which I think most will enjoy.
Everything You’ve Got and Tangled In Blue roll along nicely, the chorus’ could have been bigger, but it’s just not the style of this album.
I find the closing track Burning Fire is another that just doesn’t go anywhere sadly.

 
In a word – disappointing. But that’s comparing this to what has come before and what we expect from a JLT project. It’s a little heavier, rawer and without much padding as far as harmonies and keyboards. So it is what it is. Some might even prefer it this way. 
But for me – regardless of style direction, I think the album is missing additional knockout tunes such as the title track.
 

 

Categories: 
 
Mon
09
May

EPIC - Like A Phoenix (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
86%
Produced By: 
Epic
Running Time: 
39
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock / AOR
Score: 
86
Label: 
Escape
Artist: 
 
An unusual album this, but that’s typical of Escape Music. They have a long history of uncovering albums that fit the genre, but operate outside expectations….and deliver quality melodic rock.
 
It’s always good to hear new twists on an old format.
 
Epic are a mix of Canadian, American and Lebanese musicians. Quite something that! The 4 piece is fronted by the powerhouse vocalist Tanya Rizkala, whose deep raspy voice has quite a range and should impress fans of female fronted outfits like Dante Fox, Saraya, Witness and Heart.
 
Musically you can take those acts and add some swagger that isn’t a world away from Mr. Big and Winger, but with a lighter AOR touch.
 
This is a hard rock album in part (All I Need and Nah Nah Nah which book end the album) and melodic rock in others (the anthemic brilliant Love Will Find A Way and Like A Phoenix) and then there’s the pure AOR of the lovely ballad I Can Take You which leads into several slow-to-mid tempo ballady tracks through the middle, including the acoustic Sleepless and the dreamy My Everything.

What starts out as a pretty rocking album heads quickly into mid-tempo AOR, which isn’t a bad thing as the songs and the vocals in particular are quality – it just isn’t what I expected based on the artwork and the opening couple of tracks.
Epic do however, deliver something different for fans of female fronted melodic rock and the strength of the production and songwriting is worthy of investigation.
 
Categories: 
Tags: 
 
Mon
09
May

ZINGO - Zingo (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
80%
Produced By: 
Various
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Canada
Musical Style: 
70s Pop/Rock
Score: 
80
Label: 
Renegade Sounds
Artist: 
 
Zingo is a new release from Renegade Sounds that might slide under the radar of many visiting these pages. This is an outfit from the 70s and the 12 tracks within are sourced from the only remaining original sources – that is some from multi-track, others from quarter inch tape, some from cassette and even original vinyl. But it’s been nicely worked out to maintain a pretty consistent sound quality.
 
What’s remarkable about Zingo is that it’s the first recording band for legendary Bryan Adams guitarist Keith Scott.
Anyone that knows me knows that I’m an absolute sucker for Keith’s tone and his essential role in making Adams the icon he is.
So my interest in hearing this was immediate. It’s not all to my personal taste – I’m not an overly 70s kinda guy, but the songs here are well worth the effort to upgrade and compile.
These are rock/pop and pomp friendly radio tunes with typically 70s groove. Think Early Journey, Boston, ELO.
 
This is a must have for fans of Scott. There are some tunes here that showcase the origins of his sound perfectly and give a taste of where he came from as a guitarist and there are some moments where you can hear early Bryan Adams in the delivery.
And there’s even two tracks produced by Jim Valance for that extra Adams tie-in factor. Keith left Zingo to join Adams for his Cuts Like A Knife album and has remained with him ever since.
 
Packaging is a little minimal – it’s housed in a slimline jewelcase with no tray card, but the disc is a proper manufactured silver CD and there is a booklet.
The label apparently wanted to keep their overseas customers' shipping costs down, and this reduced the weight in half. They are however offering a free tray card if buyers want to put it in a standard jewel case.
 
There are a couple of songs where Keith really goes to town and that makes it all the more worth it as far as I’m concerned. An interesting archival record that’s up to its neck in the 70s.
Sadly vocalist Vince Nardulli passed away in 1989.
 
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Mon
09
May

RAGE OF ANGELS - The Devils New Tricks (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
92%
Produced By: 
Ged Rylands / Mixed and Mastered: Martin Kronlund
Running Time: 
69
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock / AOR
Score: 
92
Label: 
Escape
 
This is an impressive follow-up to what was an already impressive debut album. The second Rage Of Angels sees a more focused lineup run through 10 quality AOR/melodic rock songs that feature the talents of Neil Fraser (guitars, ex-Ten); Chris Green (guitars, Rubicon Cross, Tyketto), plus the rhythm section of ColdSpell - Perra Johannsen and Chris Goldsmith; along with Martin Kronlund (guitars).
 
But the brains behind Rage Of Angels is Ged Rylands, former Ten keyboardist who adds guitar to his role in his own band. And for the new album he has enlisted the great Rob Moratti to front the band; giving the album just one singer compared to five on the debut.
Having one singer gives the album a far more cohesive feel and it’s just a bonus that Rob delivers one of the best performances of his career here. His voice dominates and it’s so more satisfying to hear him belt out original material rather than Journey covers.
 
Making Rob sound so good are 10 very catchy, high energy, keyboard drenched rockers. Equally paired in the mix is some blazing guitar work, solos in every song and a brilliant mix from Kronlund has the rhythm section pumping underneath these waves of keys and guitars.
 
Musical highlights are many. The opening epic Rage Of Angels is fast, fabulous and heavy for an album of this genre. But still the keys dominate in a way Royal Hunt fans would be impressed with. All Your Own Way is a more typically AOR style with an anthemic chorus that’s perfect for Rob.
 
On Step Closer is British AOR at its best; while Strangers In The Night is filled with 80s keys, but at the same time ear crunching riffs. In And Out Of Love flows nicely into Stop Changing The TV which weaves a more melodic chorus than the title might suggest!
Long Days With You is the moodiest track and closest thing to a ballad on the album and is a fine closer.

 
A really enjoyable album and a step up from the debut as far as I’m concerned. Rob’s high register vocals are perfect for the material before him and keyboard lovers will love the layers of ivory that prove to be the foundation of this record.
One point I would like to make – 70 minutes for 10 songs is pretty ambitious and there are several tracks here that would have benefitted from tighter control in the editing phase. There are a few killer 4 minute songs wrapped up in 6 minute bodies.
Other than that small point – definitely recommended for classic 80s/AOR fans and fans of Rob Moratti/Final Frontier and Ten.

 

Categories: 
 
Fri
22
Apr

CHRIS OUSEY - Dream Machine (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
Produced By: 
Lars Chriss
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
90
Label: 
Escape
Artist: 
 
Veteran British vocalist Chris Ousey already has a wealth of impressive material to his name with such acts as Virginia Wolf, Heartland and The Distance.
His debut solo album was a long time coming, but was everything a Chris Ousey fan could possibly wish for, made even better with the production and musical nouse of the great Mike Slamer.
For his anticipated sophomore solo release, there’s no Slamer, but there is drummer/producer Lars Chriss and he has done a very good job maintaining the big punchy sound of the debut.
 
That album was truly outstanding, so I wasn’t expecting as much from this album, but still hoped it would come close. It does.
While the guitar playing and overall production style isn’t as impressive, the sound is still intact and the voice of Ousey makes it all worthwhile.
 
And there are several more absolutely fabulous songs on offer here. A couple of fillers too, but for the most part, this is a high energy, uptempo melodic rock must-have.
 
Opening with the Deep Purple-ish barnstormer This Is The Life, Chris shows he is still the vocalist we’ve loved since the 80s.
Another Runaway is a classically 80s sounding anthem, with a tasteful moody verse before one of the best choruses of the album.
War is possibly the most aggressive track on the album – fast, furious and packing a powerful punch.
Dream Machine continues the fast pace of the album with a funky twist. Not a favourite, but it depends on my mood how much I enjoy it.
Tearing It All Down is yet another fast flowing track with another great chorus. Classic Chris Ousey/Heartland here.
 
The fun continues with Into Your Dream, featuring another strong melodic AOR chorus over a solid groove.
Moment of Madness continues the blistering pace of this album with another great song. A less impactful chorus, but it still does the job.
Gone Long Gone is one track that fails in the chorus department for me; the verse is more impressive as far as vocal melodies.
Better Time to Come kicks the album back into overdrive, with a fast moving melodic rocker featuring another great vocal and chorus.
 
The slower rocking Eager To Please is perhaps another track that doesn’t have the immediate catchiness of other songs.
Return To Me makes up for that with enough melodies for two songs. Another fast and furious rocker.
Flesh On The Bone is a bonus track that wasn’t serviced to media, so I can’t comment on this one.

What strikes me above all else is the quality of Chris Ousey’s vocals. He truly is a wonder and anyone that appreciated Heartland or The Distance needs this album. Fans of the last album might miss Mike Slamer in the same way I am, but the quality of the songs and vocals ensures that the album repeats the ‘must buy’ status of the debut.
 

 

Categories: 
 
Thu
21
Apr

CODA - Coda (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
40%
Produced By: 
Vince O'Regan
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
UK
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
40
Label: 
Z Records
Artist: 
 
Coda is a new British/American outfit, destined to be regarded by the few that hear it, as an opportunity lost. I don’t like to stereotype, after all, with rock n roll anything is possible any time, so you must have an open mind.
That said, seeing the name Vince O’Regan in the production credits brings me out in cold sweat as my ears slowly retract into my head in an act of self-preservation.
 
And while I once worshipped at the altar of all things Sabu, vocalist Paul Sabu has long since passed his best and now resides in a raspy, gravely realm along with several other legends I won’t name here.
Coda also features CJ Curse on bass and Eric Ragno on keyboards plus Andy Pierce on drums.
 
And while I wanted to be proved wrong, sadly I’m not. Coda is another production death statistic O’Regan can add to his long, long list of (dis)credits – Alibi, Pulse, Legion, Eden, Bob Catley and Escape.
Loud and in your face (did I mention loud?) does not make a good production and as expected, this is another huge sonic mess, with bass parts so loud my speakers threatened to walk out; tinny guitars and badly mixed vocals; plus is Eric Ragno even on here? I can hardly hear his keyboard parts beyond a couple of background fills and some organ in Heat On Ice. The mix is that bad.
 
Vocally Paul does his best, but the voice is unrecognizable from the days of Only Child and it's at times painful to listen to.
Song quality isn’t much better. Land Of The Free and Use It Or Lose It are appalling and Den Of Thieves and One Way Love just sound like a mess, almost unlistenable.
Elsewhere most other tracks just blend into each other. There’s little light and shade here. The only track that holds any interest is One Friend To Another.

Not surprisingly, this is a huge mess and will really struggle to sell. Vince O’Regan needs a producer and Z Records needs a winner. Neither appear to be forthcoming and certainly aren’t on display for this debut album. I’ll be surprised if there’s a sequel.
 
Categories: 
 
Mon
18
Apr

TREAT - Ghost Of Graceland (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
99%
Produced By: 
Peter Mansson & Anders Wikstrom
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
99
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
We all know what an astounding record Coup De Grace was, mainly because most of us are still playing it some 6 years since it was released. Where has that time gone??
With Ghost Of Graceland Swedish legends Treat warned us that they were changing things up a little for the new album – updating their sound for a modern day feel.
And that they have done, but this is no leap into the unknown or unfamiliar territory. There are noticeable changes and some fairly contemporary sounds going on, but at the heart of this album is twelve absolutely cracking melodic rock songs that are driven by hooks, melodies and choruses to die for.
 
Then there is the production! The updated sound is a perfect fit for the band and sees them continue to evolve. The feel is somewhat lighter, despite a couple of tracks being every bit as heavy as ever and there are orchestral parts all over this record.
This album is still going to sound fresh in 6 years the same way that Coup De Grace has kept us company for the last 6.
Everything about this album screams class, style and intelligent songwriting. Not a weak track or filler to be found and the band deserve to be proud of yet another essential release.
 
This is a different beast than Coup De Grace. The guitars and overall production style is more attuned to a modern rock market than classic Scandi-hard rock. There are also a lot of additional effects and synth passages and even the vocals are at times slanted towards a modern accent.
In places I could imagine something similar coming from the likes of Shinedown, but once the chorus hits – every time it’s a melodic home run.
 
There are so many anthemic choruses on here; it was hard to keep track of them all! Several weeks of listening later, it still sounds fresh and new and exciting to listen to.
 
Opening the album with a mid-tempo, heavy anthem, the band immediately signals that they’ve updated their sound. So guitars might be a bit more aggressive and tuned down a little, but the chorus is immediately likable. The symphonic keyboards add real texture to the song.
I Don't Miss the Misery is what I referred to before when I compared some tracks to Shinedown. The intro, heavy riff and verse vocal is pure modern rock, but the chorus is glorious, hands in the air, anthemic bliss. I love the contrasts.
Better the Devil You Know is kinda left of center and something different again, until another anthemic layered chorus arrives to throw us back to the 80s.
 
Do Your Own Stunts is an extraordinary song in any day or age. It’s not quite a ballad, not quite anything else. Basically it’s a slow, building track with a lot of heart and a lead vocal and chorus that defy gravity. Add in orchestral parts and piano and you have a modern masterpiece.
That track rolls seamlessly into Endangered, which is more traditional Treat and once again features a likeable commercial verse before a monster chorus blows things sky high.
 
Inferno is a very similar track and delivers a one-two old-school melodic rock punch of big choruses and big hooks.
The curiously titled Alien Earthlings is slower and darker and creeps along with a modern vibe until, yes once again, a monster anthemic layered chorus arrives for singalong time.
Nonstop Madness is a simpler, more relaxed track, but there’s no letup in pace or that expected big anthem chorus.
 
Too Late to Die Young rocks along at a good pace, perhaps the fastest rocker of the album. The beat thumps and the vocal harmonies and a killer chorus make it yet another winner.
House on Fire probably blends into the album more inconspicuously than some other tracks, but it has its place. It’s all hooks and while not as immediate as others, still grows into an essential track over time.
 
Together Alone is a beautiful ballad that sticks in your head, sung by guitarist Anders Wikstrom and accompanied only with piano and orchestra. The chorus is layers deep in instrumentation and makes quite an impact. It reminds me a little of something Mike Tramp might try.
Everything to Everyone closes the album with a multi-layered mid-tempo rocker. Another good chorus of course and in many ways the albums closes in the same musical way it started.

Ghost Of Graceland is full of class, full of more classic Treat songs and full of extraordinary production techniques that take several weeks to absorb and appreciate. I would not be surprised if some come back to this album in several years’ time to discuss how it lead the way as far as moving melodic rock in a more modern, contemporary direction.

Coup De Grace was more a traditional melodic hard rock record that had almost universal appeal. This album perhaps may not have the legs of its predecessor, due to the style and overall more laid back design, but there’s no denying this is another classic and an album the band and us as fans should be very proud of. Brilliant as hoped.
Categories: 
 
Mon
18
Apr

DRIVE SHE SAID - Pedal To The Metal (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
82%
Produced By: 
Drive She Said
Running Time: 
53
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR
Score: 
82
Label: 
Frontiers
 
I really wasn’t expecting much to be honest. I’m not sure why – maybe I had left over memories of the band’s last album from way back in 2003 or perhaps the horrid comeback album from Balance a few years back.
But I’m pleased to say that for the most part, my expectations have been exceeded.
Aside from band stalwarts Mark Mangold (keyboards, backing vocals) and Al Fritsch (vocals, backing vocals, guitar, bass), there are about 700 additional guest musicians appearing here, such as Ken Sandin bass; Pontus Engborg drums; Peter Yttergren drums; Kenny Aronoff drums; and Kurt Gellersted and Ricky Wheels guitars.
There are also no less than 8 backing vocalists including the talents of Goran Edman, Randy Jackson, Tomas Vikstrom, Peppy Castro and Ted Poley!
 
Anyway, what’s important is the music on offer and here we have a collection of very (totally and utterly) 80s sounding classic AOR tracks, complete with all the necessary pomp and excessive production fans of Drive, She Said might expect.
 
The totally 80s melodic hard rock of Touch opens the album and I know you will all think the same thing with that opening riff. Very familiar indeed!
I always find it funny when a melodic/AOR band talks about putting the ‘Pedal to the Metal’, but that’s exactly what happens with the title track here. No, it ain’t metal, but it certainly rocks pretty hard for these guys.
In R Blood is an immediate attention getting tune – a great pomp rocker with some blinding keyboards and over the top vocals and chorus. Nice guitar solo too.
Said It All is a great sentimental ballad in that classic 80s AOR style.
The production quality is pretty varied around the record and Writing on The Wall perhaps suffers the most, but what a glorious 70s pomp rocker this is. Full dramatic Styx organ in play and swirling keyboards all over the place. My favourite track alongside In R Blood.
 
Rainbows and Hurricanes is another varied song with pace changes and moody vocals, plus a dramatic heavier chorus. Another cool song.
Fiona comes back for the first time since the band’s sophomore record for the huge ballad In Your Arms. A tasty 80s light-AOR moment.
 
So far so good. But I’m not sure what happened next. This is one of those true What. The. Fuck. moments one sometimes encounters as a reviewer.
Track 10: I’m The Nyte and to a lesser extent, track 11: Lost In You are just fucking horrible. I mean bad. I mean catastrophically bad to the point you just wonder how anyone could let two such atrociously bad songs make the same album as the rest of the material.
Or maybe there has been a mastering error and two programmed-techno-dance-pop songs from a Bavarian DJ found their way on here by mistake?
Guys – not sure what you were thinking (or smoking) – but this is not DSS and I can’t imagine one single fan anywhere thinking these are two good songs.
 
The album closes with an acoustic ballad that really isn’t that exciting and doesn’t make up for the audio assault of the previous 2 songs. So for me this album is 9 tracks only and finishes with that fine ballad duet with Fiona.

A pretty good effort here – as long as you hit the stop button at the conclusion of track 9. The production quality doesn’t come close to most other titles in the marketplace and does vary from track to track, but there’s enough pomp and melody in the songs to forgive that.
I can’t forgive those two late album tracks though, thank God they did not have those further up in the order. How they got past quality control I don’t know.
But overall, pretty good job guys.
 
Categories: 
 
Mon
18
Apr

SHIRAZ LANE - For Crying Out Loud (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
70%
Running Time: 
51
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
70
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
 
It’s always good to welcome new talent onto the scene and we need more of it.
Finland has already delivered some impressive bands over the last few years and Shiraz Lane are the latest to arrive.
The guys compare themselves with US giants Guns N Roses, Skid Row and Aerosmith; as well as local favourites The 69 Eyes, Amorphis, Lordi and Sonic Syndicate. The basic premise is therefore easy to understand.
These youngsters in their twenties embody the kick ass, free rock n roll spirit that drives so many.
 
Songs like Momma's Boy and House Of Cards certainly have that GNR spirit and swagger to them. I can hear some Faster Pussycat too.
Begging For Mercy heads towards The Darkness thanks to some falsetto vocals and general silliness.
 
I guess now is as good a time as any to discuss vocalist Hannes Kett. If the band is to reach stardom, they either need to rein this guy in or move on without him. He is the clear weak link on this record.
The really classy ballad Same Ol' Blues is a phenomenal tune, but the vocals are a big distraction. And elsewhere (such as the high energy Mental Slavery), the vocals are so high, my dog runs from the room every time I play it. Not to mention the whiney tone.
The vocals are just too high, too often and mainly squealing. It takes away from some otherwise really strong material, such as the GNR inspired For Crying Out Loud and the 7 minute bluesy ballad Bleeding.

Great potential here. But they’re not Guns N Roses and they’re not The Darkness. And they are not in the league of their heroes just yet. Especially with the vocals, which for me are a massive distraction to the point that I can’t enjoy the album as I might normally.
The band is nearly there with the songs and production, but vocally, there’s a long way to go.
 
Categories: 
 
Fri
01
Apr

INNERWISH - Innerwish (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Fredrik Nordström and Henrik Udd
Running Time: 
68
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
88
Label: 
Ulterium
Artist: 
 
Greek metallers InnerWish have produced this, their 5th album, and first with a new vocalist George Eikosipentakis. He’s the band’s third frontman and I think they’d be wise to hang on to this one – he’s a keeper.
 
The most immediate thing about the self-titled InnerWish album is the huge sound. Mosnter production and clear mix and that traditional European melodic metal sound – double kick drums, frantic at times pacing and layers of guitars and riffs.
 
The next most noticeable attribute of this album is the new boy. He sings his ass off here. George has a massive case of the Jorn Lande’s, which is not a bad thing as far as I’m concerned.
He’s delivery isn’t quite the same and his voice somewhat deeper than Jorn, but the style and the mannerisms and the raspy grasp of higher notes and powerhouse screams is total Jorn.
 
Highlights include the riff powered Roll The Dice, with a big Masterplan style chorus; the faster, more menacing Broken; the Impellitteri styled Machines Of Fear; the acoustic intro’d mini-epic Needles In My Mind and the even longer Rain Of A Thousand Years.
Only the acoustic Cross The Line gives off any hint of a song of non-metal origins. It’s a really solid ballad.
And the Iron Maiden themed Tame The Seven Seas closes the album with a flourish.

This is the type of album that fans of Impellitteri, Masterplan and Iron Maiden to name a few will enjoy. Good strong songs, some surprising chorus hooks in places and layers of harmonies when needed. An album that puts this band on the map in my opinion. Metal heads should investigate.
 

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
18
Mar

CIRCUS MAXIMUS - Havoc (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
93%
Produced By: 
Circus Maximus
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Progressive Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
93
Label: 
Frontiers
 
On the surface, I’d say that overall, this isn’t as strong as the last album Nine, but there are parts of this release that I favor over everything the band has done before.
 
Havok is a left turn for the guys after their brilliant progressive monster Nine. This time they’ve evolved into something a little more commercial. The album is nowhere near as heavy as last time and there’s an updated more contemporary sound in play, plus more keyboards as well.
 
There’s a few tracks here striving for modern rock radio – there’s a trilogy of tracks almost immediately - the moody Highest Bitter has an almost Shinedown quality to it as does Havok, which throws in vocal effects and a distorted production. Pages rounds it off – modern progressive and heavy down tuned guitar.
I enjoy those tracks in the flow of the album, they fit the narrative, but if I’m honest, the main reason I’m listening to them is from a purist’s point of view, in that I want to hear an album start to finish as the artist intended.
 
What I’m really waiting for are the quite masterful melodic epics that bookend those heavier tracks. These are the band at their creative best - as progressive and epic as ever – but also more complex and hook driven than before. They aren’t heavy in the normal sense, but they sure are powerful.
 
Those tracks include the brilliant opening track The Weight, with its symphonic heart; then the even better Flames, which is really just magnificent. Mellow, yet uptempo, melodic yet challenging. It features a wonderful chorus and some inspired guitar playing and keyboard parts.
Loved Ones comes next and is the first of 3 big epics on the album. It’s a little faster and a little heavier, but still fits the new sound. The chorus has an epic feel as does the extended instrumentation.
After The Fire is darker and more guitar driven, but still dramatic and engaging and at 8 minutes goes by in a flash thanks to several different musical passages.
Remember is one of the melodic songs of 2016 so far for me and is in a word – essential. It builds from a soft start to an epic finish that just blows me away every time. The chorus hook is extreme, even if it takes a while to arrive and the interplay between keyboard/guitar and drums is unbelievable.
Chivalry closes the regular album and does it with class. Another 8 minute plus epic, the song travels a few different paths before a great guitar riff plays out over the last minute or two.

Fabulous stuff again from the guys. They reach new levels of commercial melodic accessibility here as well as turning modern for a few tracks too.
Some like myself will favor one style over the other, but it’s still a great listen start to finish and I dare say it could find the band some new fans.
Overall a different beast to the last album, so I expect some folks won’t rate it quite as highly, but there’s still many highlights to appreciate.
 

 

Categories: 
 
Fri
18
Mar

LORDS OF BLACK - II (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
83%
Produced By: 
Tony Hernando and Roland Grapow
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
83
Label: 
Frontiers
 
If you attract the attention of Richie Blackmore and subsequently get the gig to front Rainbow in 2016, you must be something pretty special right?
Vocalist Ronnie Romero has done just that. But before hitting the road with the Purple One, his band Lords Of Black must first deal with their business at hand…. The release of their furious, fast and flashy metal opus “II”.
 
Lords Of Black are a metal band with a modern approach – “catchy, melodic and progressive” in their words. Pretty accurate too. There’s no end of double kick drum here, screaming vocals and truly over the top guitar acrobatics.
But there’s also piano, synth and orchestral passages as well as some softer moments where the true timbre of Ronnie’s voice shines.
 
But mostly – it’s fast, really fast or overdrive fast as the metal comes in your face and threatens to disintegrate your ears. Did I mention these guys are Spanish? Can’t really tell to be honest….this is old school commercial metal all the way.
 
All very consistent - as long as your ears can keep up - and one to crank when in need of a shot of adrenaline.

Once again co-produced, mixed and mastered by Roland Grapow, this album has the power of a nuclear reactor and the performances of 3 guys with their lives on the line.

 

Categories: 
 
Fri
18
Mar

THE TREATMENT - Generation Me (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
87%
Produced By: 
Laurie Mansworth
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
With so many albums to choose from these days, it’s pretty easy to skip a release or even an entire band on occasion.
I haven’t given UK rockers The Treatment any time until now, given the bigger push by Frontiers Records.
And while I haven’t had time to go back and take in the band’s first two albums, I am a new fan on the basis of this third full length album.
Generation Me is The Treatment’s first album featuring Mitchel Emms on vocals and Tao Grey on guitar, and launches the band’s partnership with their new label Frontiers Music Srl.
 
Being that my appreciation of these guys comes directly from the hard crunch of the AC/DC styled riffs and the stand out vocals, perhaps this is a great place for anyone to start without the need for prior familiarity.
 
What we have here is a very enjoyable, high energy classic hard rock album that features a raw, but impressive production and music that’s best described as Tesla meets AC/DC.
The raspy, sometimes higher tone of Emms is really pleasing to these ears and the riffing is a great variety of punchy hard rock and faster paced dirty rock n roll.
 
Best of all are the songs. You can have the best sound and the best talent, but without the songs, you’re going nowhere.
The title track is fast and furious; the hard rocking opening track (and single) Let It Begin is a perfect opener; The Devil gets tuck in your head pretty easily; the softer going Backseat Heartbeat is pure melodic Tesla, mirroring that band’s excellent use of acoustic guitars; We Are Beautiful flows beautifully and Light The Sun is a cool anthemic Tesla styled rocker to close the album.

The only places I struggle is with the go-nowhere Better Think Again and I Know She Knows, which to me just has a really annoying chorus. That takes away from the second half of the album, but elsewhere it’s very consistent and thoroughly enjoyable.
 

 

Categories: 
 
Fri
18
Mar

ROYAL HUNT - Cargo (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
85%
Produced By: 
Royal Hunt
Running Time: 
90
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
85
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
The powerhouse that is Royal Hunt continues on with this “in between albums” live release, a double album recorded during the band’s 2015 festival appearances.
The set takes in 90 minutes of full power Royal Hunt – a complete rendition of their signature concept album Paradox to kick off Disc 1. On Disc 2 there are just 5 songs, but thankfully the best track from the band's recent era - A Life To Die For - proves to be a fitting climax.
 
Just 12 songs for the 90 minutes of high intensity progressive (melodic) metal. You know the band – you know the songs. The only issue with a release such as this – is it any good? Yes indeed.
 
The recordings are clear, sharp and very well mixed. The performances are what you’d expect of the pros that André Andersen, DC Cooper, Andreas Passmark, Jonas Larsen and Andreas Johansson are.

One for fans of The Hunt and especially the Paradox album and a great performance from DC Cooper and the rest of the band.

 

Categories: 
 
Mon
29
Feb

MAGNUM - Sacred Blood & Divine Lies (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
80%
Produced By: 
Tony Clarkin
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
80
Label: 
SPV
Artist: 
 
Magnum are one of my favourite bands of all time. I’ve been a lot harder on their post-reformation releases as I felt they just didn’t stack up against the classic era albums. I struggle to listen to Breath of Life or Brand New Morning at all these days, but Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow was more impressive. Since then it’s been a general progression up the scale. On The 13th Day I gave a 95 and Escape From The Shadow Garden a 96. I even gave The Visitation a 93, showing that in my mind, the band has been getting better with each release. But that march stops here.
 
I’ve had this album 3 months now. It’s been played over and over and over again and my emotions have changed several times throughout that time.
I’m only now comfortable to review the new album in detail. I’ve struggled with it and I’ve played it so much I began to like some elements I didn’t previously. But now the dust has settled and I can look at this objectively – as someone who grew up on Storytellers, Vigilante, Wings Of Heaven and on…
 
On its own, there’s a lot to like. But the reality is that I’ve heard it all before. And I think I’ve come to the decision I’ve had enough of this style.
The beauty of classic Magnum was that you never really knew what Tony Clarkin would serve up next. Every album had its own sound, its own feel and its own tempo.
That changed when the band reformed. On each album since, it has been a pretty consistent and continual hard edged delivery each time.
Each album has offered hints of the past as Tony delved into some classic sounds or Mark Stanway had greater influence over the song structure, but still nothing has come close to the perfection that is 85-92 Magnum.
 
The other problem with the band’s current day albums is that all too familiar slow plodding pace that the guys rarely break out of. That's the biggest issue I have and am totally over.
Of the 10 main tracks on Sacred Blood Divine Lies, there are only 2 that go beyond second gear and the sequence of tracks is again done in a way to prevent the album from getting rolling.
There are some definite positives here – Bob is singing better than on the last couple and the production quality is probably the best of the recent albums.
 
The near 7 minute opener Sacred Blood "Divine" Lies has that same crunchy guitar riff magnum fans know and some impressive Bob Catley vocals and a chorus that appeals pretty quickly. I like that Mark Stanway stamps his authority on this track with some classic keyboards.
Unfortunately Crazy Old Mothers heads straight into the plods. I really don’t like slow moving tracks so quickly after a momentum building opening.
But if we do have to have a slow, heavy plodder here, this track is one of the better ones of its style. It has a gritty, guitar heavy chorus that’s short but effective.
 
The opening minute to Gypsy Queen would suggest we might be heading back to classic 80s Magnum. It’s slow but I’m anticipating something big. Unfortunately no, it doesn’t head that way at all. I’m still not sold on this track as the structure is all too familiar – slow verse, heavier mid-tempo chorus and repeat.
Princess in Rags (The Cult) is thankfully a big lift in tempo as the band gets out of second gear to deliver another familiar sounding tune (slow verse again, but the mood suits the song) that rocks along at a good pace and a chorus that stands out as one of the better ones on offer.
 
Your Dreams Won't Die is a long pleasant sentimental ballad, but steers the album straight back into ‘go slow’ and I’m not really connecting with this song over some of the band’s better ballads. And let’s face it – Magnum has some of the most epic and brilliant ballads of any band, any time.
I’m beginning to get really frustrated about now. I really don’t like the ultra-slow plod of the go nowhere track Afraid of the Night. I just want the band to speed up a little and deliver some huge choruses like the old days. This track is really pedestrian and sounds way too similar to I Didn’t Like You Anyway.
A Forgotten Conversation is once again slow of course, but I do like Catley’s vocal intro and the orchestration adds a bit of texture. The pace doubles for the chorus, but that still puts it at mind-tempo at best and the chorus isn’t that memorable.
 
Quiet Rhapsody gives the illusion of rocking harder and faster only because the rest of the album is so slow. I do like the riff on offer and the chorus is marginally more effective than some others.
Twelve Men Wise and Just features another slow start, but picks up pace as it goes and evolves into one of the faster and better tracks and should in my opinion been moved up to second place in the sequence. A fine Catley vocal impresses.
The semi-acoustic driven Don't Cry Baby uses the same formula as half the album before it – slow intro, faster chorus. It swaps back and forth a few times. There’s no real chorus again, but the mood of the song and Bob’s vocals make it worthwhile.
 
The Digipak edition offers three additional tracks. But each of the 3 is embedded within the second DVD disc. I don’t get that at all. That’s making it hard for fans to appreciate the tunes in places only digital or CDs go.
 
Phantom Of Paradise Circus is more varied than anything Magnum have delivered in a while. The tempo moves along too, making you wonder why it isn’t part of the main album. No stand out chorus as such, but a decent track.
Don’t Give Up is yet another pretty fast moving rocker, which is a blessing to hear. This is more Rock Art styled Magnum, with fast riff and a good beat and a solid chorus.
No God Or Saviour is a moody rocker that starts slow (again), but the change of pace with the chorus and the accompanying guitar riff again offers more diversity and originality than the album’s main block of tracks. Puzzling as to why it’s not part of the official album.
 
Don’t Give Up and No God Or Saviour should have made the full album and I would have dropped Afraid Of The Night and maybe even Forgotten Conversation, not to mention shuffling the sequencing around once again.

 
My love of Magnum remains and always will, but I think this album is a step backwards after the best album post-reformation – Escape From The Shadow Garden. Make that three steps back, as I rate this behind Thirteenth Day and Visitation too.
 
On its own, Sacred Blood is probably better than I’ve marked, but I’m feeling it is just too similar to what has come before it. It’s the same Magnum mid-to-slow-tempo pace, it’s the same restrained choruses that lack the intensity, the passion and the pomp glory of tracks like Days Of No Trust, Maybe Tonight, On A Storytellers Night, When The World Comes Down, Heartbroke And Busted et all.
 
I just want my old Magnum back. Or at least I want the new Magnum to pick up the damn pace already and deliver some of those anthemic singalong choruses we know and love. I reallt think the guys could use an outside producer to help - I know they have a true masterpiece left in them.
 
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
18
Feb

INGLORIOUS - Inglorious (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
Produced By: 
Inglorious
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
90
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
This British band are hailed as the heirs to the classic rock throne, as currently held by the likes of Deep Purple, Whitesnake and Rainbow.
Fronted by one of the biggest voices in rock today, Nathan James dominates this recoding with some truly remarkable vocal acrobatics. From a deep booming baritone to high pitch wailing and everything in between, he is all over this material like few others I can recall in recent times.
 
The style of James can be something that requires adjusting to – when you have such a unique voice, there will be some that don’t connect – but then he so suits the material here it doesn’t take long to warm up to him. Think Richie Kotzen meets David Coverdale.
 
But he isn’t the lone star here – the performances within this album from the band are quite special. There’s a certain organic energy that radiates from this record, yet at the same time, the production seems quite polished.
The twin guitar attack is relentless and the rhythm section delivers the thunder to the lightning of James’ dominant vocals.
 
I love the production on this album. It’s sharp, it’s crisp, but it is also warm and inviting. A lot of time and went into this record and it shows.
What I struggled with to start with was the pacing of the album (yes, the tempo strikes again) and that issue remains as the only hesitation here.
While this album has a penchant for slower songs, most of them work. I’d prefer a couple more ‘up’ tunes, but the quality of the performances and the songs themselves make up for this and dare I say that those that have an ear for the slow and moody will absolutely love what’s on offer here.
 
After a build-up that would rival Rainbow and Deep Purple for mood and anticipation, Until I Die storms to life. It’s a mid-tempo hard hitting rocker with a terrific Zeppelinesque groove.
Breakaway is a storming fast paced Rainbow/Purple style rocker with organ and screaming vocals – everything you could ask for.
High Flying Gypsy turns the tempo back a notch, but is driven by a big riff and some nice soloing. The vocals wail of course.
Holy Water is utterly brilliant. The slow tempo suits the mood and all I can hear is classic Deep Purple or Coverdale here. It’s just immense. James electrifies with a really soulful vocal. It’s very Richie Kotzen and sounds like it could come from any of his solo albums. It’s a classic 70s swagger-n-blues tune. Very cool and the chorus is simple, but high impact.
 
Warning takes a while to kick into high gear, but once rolling, delivers a wailing tempo boost when needed. The twin guitar attack delivers riffs in both ears while the production is just perfect and James’ vocals are brilliant.
Bleed For You is the third slowish tune in a row, which would normally test my patience, but its simply too good a song to worry. It’s a heavy ballad of sorts, the vocals are once again quite extraordinary.
Girl Got A Gun is the same slow pace again, perhaps this is one slow track too many, but the chorus comes to life and it’s still a very good song.
You're Mine stays within the album’s overall mid-pace tempo. This is a bit of Zeppelinesque number. It’s a decent hard rocker with more Kotzen familiarities with the vocals and some touches of Coverdale too.
 
Inglorious is a heavy, slow rocker with another Zeppelin influenced 70s riff and some variety within the song, but overall it’s slow once again and the album could really use a lift in tempo.
Wake isn’t it. The song is an acoustic ballad with a lot of class though, a really big soulful vocal again from James.
Unaware is a heavy but melodic heavy groove that is for me probably missing a stronger chorus.

The first half of the album is flawless as far as I can see and the second half still sounds amazing, but suffers from lack of pace and a couple of songs that match the outstanding quality within the first half.
It all comes down to the tempo – only 1 or 2 really fired up, fast paced tracks. More would have been preferred, but at least the songs are consistently good.
 
The album pays homage to the artists mentioned as influences and Nathan James is a monster vocalist with a strong Richie Kotzen / David Coverdale vibe. The rest of the band are no slouches either – dynamic performances all-round and a very convincing debut.
 

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
11
Feb

RICK SPRINGFIELD - Rocket Science (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
100%
Produced By: 
Rick Springfield & Matt Bissonette
Running Time: 
45
Release Date: 
February 19
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Pop / Rock / Country
Score: 
100
Label: 
Frontiers
 
Rick Springfield has never made the same album twice. Take a look back through his career, even as far back as his 1971 debut Beginnings, he has changed his sound continually along the way. There have been albums with a similar musical theme running through them, but never two records quite the same.
 
In recent years Rick has been more eclectic than ever. From the various sessions that formed the melodic introspect of Karma; to the straight up aggression and angst of Shock Denial Anger Acceptance; to the modern rock theme of the uptempo and personal Venus In Overdrive and Songs For The End Of The World albums – there’s always something new to digest.
In the same way that Karma followed the Sahara Snow compilation; Rick follows last year’s Stripped release with his brand new 18th studio album.
 
Rick continues his career renaissance with Rocket Science, an album that for me completes the trilogy of releases co-written with bassist Matt Bissonette. It really does continue the sound and style encompassed in Venus and Songs, albeit with a completely new twist.
A country twist.
 
That word frightens some, but it shouldn’t. Any long time Rick fan will already be comfortable with the notion as it has appeared as a musical influence before in the 70s, again in the 80s (What Kind Of Fool Am I) and even in the 90s with Karma (a very similar acoustic base used on several tracks).
And anyone that enjoyed the utterly brilliant Songs or Venus albums will find instant familiarity in Rocket Science, as the same pop base has been used with the songwriting. Essentially those two records are modern pop albums with heavier guitars.
Rocket Science is the exact same premise, just with a lighter, breezier feel and heavier emphasis on country influences.
 
It threw me at first, it really did. But after 3 or 4 listens it just sounded like Rick. Like it was something he’s been doing all along.
In fact it is a joy to hear Rick and Matt’s songs over the bed of instrumentation here, which includes the banjo, pedal steel, mandolin, fiddle and violin.
 
Rocket Science features some of the most unbelievably catchy songs of Rick’s career. It’s quite simply one hook after another from start to finish. The dressing may be different, but the main course is hit songs.
 
And the production and especially the mix on this album is sensational. It’s no easy feat to balance the many layers a Rick Springfield album always offers into a listenable package, but to go and add so many new instruments and make them all audible within the songs is, frankly, astonishing. Credit there goes to Nashville pro Justin Niebank, who Rick brought in for his expertise in working with the acoustic instruments.
 
The other immediately obvious aspect of the new album is the lyrical and music positivity. In Rick’s own words, he thought it time to stop ‘pissing and moaning’, which I think is an apt description of what this album doesn’t do. It really is so damn positive and the songs really give off that ‘up’ vibe. Some of the songs on here are simply some of the catchiest, happiest songs of Rick’s career.
And awesome to see longtime associates Tim Pierce and Jeff Silverman amongst the album credits.
 
Track by Track:
 
Light This Party Up is exactly what it sounds like – a concert anthem that’s just begging to be played loud. The title sounds country and the song is indeed that – but one of the more hard rocking country tracks I’ve heard and the steel guitar is turned to 11. It rocks along at a terrific pace and is the album’s most obviously simplistic lyric.
 
Down on the other hand is a wonderful complex, feel good lyric that for me has the exact same impact as track 2 on both Venus (I’ll Miss That Someday) and Songs (Our Ship’s Sinking). An uptempo anthem that has a lot of instrumentation going on under the vocal (as do all tracks), with the acoustic instruments overridden by electric ones in this instance. Another Rick classic.
 
That One is one of the stronger country themed tracks here, but it also features some modern production effects and something that Rick hasn’t done, that is, change his vocal delivery. So this is basically a Karma style mid-tempo modern pop song that is utterly addictive.
The chorus is impossible not to like and the lyrics are again personal and encouraging. The twang of steel guitar becomes less noticeable and sinks in as part of Rick’s natural sound.
 
The Best Damn Thing is another wonderful lyric wrapped in a feel good uptempo pop/country/rocker with another unforgettable singalong chorus.
Rick’s regular guitar sound mixes with mandolins and slide guitar seamlessly and while it’s one of the most obvious country tunes here, the fast moving tempo and catchiness is impossible to deny. It’s now one of my very favourites. Can you hear the reference to What Kind Of Fool Am I?
 
There’s always a left turn within a Rick album and there’s a few on this album. Miss Mayhem is one and the most stark. Starting with a banjo riff (yes!) over a swapy vocal, it then turns heavy with a bluesy hard driving riff and a chorus not like any other on the album. A good dose of guitar for those who might be craving such. A late-song vocal bridge is not unlike something from Sahara Snow.
 
Pay It Forward is pop perfection. Unbelievably catchy and driven by steel guitar, banjos and violins, the country themed pop rocker is brilliant. Impossible not to sing along to, this tune could be on pop or country radio alongside any modern artist. It reminds me heavily of The Hooters when they take on that Celtic sound so well.
 
Found is about as country as it gets. The acoustic based ballad is backed with every kind of Nashville instrument and overtone, with fiddle and violins at the forefront. But the vocal is so honest and pure; plus there’s another impossibly catchy hook. The song is every bit as essential as any other track here. It’s not a slow ballad by at stretch and features a full rounded chorus.
 
Crowded Solitude is another track that’s driven by country instruments and soul. More inspiring lyrics and a singalong barn dance style chorus makes for yet another very catchy track, even if it might be quite removed from what fans of a rockier Rick Springfield might wish for. For those that have liked the album so far, there’s no dip in quality here.
 
Let Me In is the re-recording of a bonus track from the last album. Another great example of how the style from Songs bleeds into Rock Science. This song is perfect for the format in play here. Rick’s vocal is warmer and richer and the added country influences make this another sure fire hit single given half the chance.
 
We talk about left turns on Rick albums all the time. All Hands On Deck is not only a left turn, it’s a complete U-turn from the middle lane on a crowded freeway.
This is simple extraordinary song and one of Rick’s fastest moving and catchiest songs ever. It is unlike anything he has ever recorded before.
Starting with a slow steel guitar intro and vocal, the song explodes into this crazy Celtic stomp that reminds me of an 18th Century sea shanty. It’s The Hooters meets Captain Pugwash with a gallon of rum thrown in. Brilliant.
 
We Connect is a song that will sound much more familiar to Rick fans. This is almost free of any country instrumentation. Rather it is a darker, heavier and moodier song that sounds like it could easily have come straight from Songs For The End Of The World. It’s another very fine addition to the folder of Rick angst songs and I’m sure will be a favourite for many. Wonderful haunting lyrics too.
 
(I Wish I Has A) Concrete Heart takes things back on message with a breezy acoustic driven pop/rock song with some modern production loops and personal lyrics. The chorus bursts to life with another instantly likeable hook. It’s just another brilliant song that follows a string of other brilliant songs.
 
Earth To Angel is the perfect way to close this amazing album. A breezy pop/country song with a more rocking chorus (catchy as always) that combines the influences of this album in a feel good song that again reminds me of The Hooters.
 
Unfortunately the only bonus track of the several listed available that I can comment on is the one with the Japanese version of the album. Jessie’s Girl (2016) is nothing like what I anticipated. It’s a complete reimagining of the song, with new bridge harmonies and a completely new musical bed that brings the song into a darker, modern realm, with increased programming and a huge new hook to really invigorate this old classic.
Makes me wonder what Rick could do with some of his other 80s classics. Next album perhaps?

And after 45 minutes (49 with the bonus track) the ride is over. It may be a hayride, but it’s a hayride with electric guitars, modern rock production, a million dollar mix and 13 of the catchiest songs you’ll hear from any one artist on one album.
 
I know what some will be thinking. If this is such a great album, surely I would be leaning towards other modern country artists to listen to. But no… It’s not the country style of this record that makes it great – it’s Rick’s lyrics, his vocal nuances and the mix of his recent style with something new. It all comes together to make a catchy as hell album whose songs would work in any style.
 
I can’t understate the brilliance of these songs. The style might not suit everyone, but I have to think that this could be the best produced album of Rick’s career. Everything is just packed in so brilliantly, with all instruments clearly audible and Rick’s vocal performance is one of a 30 year old.
 
The country influences might turn some away, but they will be the folks missing out. I hadn’t planned a perfect score, but over the last 8 weeks I haven’t stopped playing this. Just brilliant.
 
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