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Artist Title Score Label
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
Art Nation ART NATION - Revolution (Review) 95 AOR Heaven
Radio Exile RADIO EXILE - Radio Exile (Review) 92 AOR Heaven
CWF CWF (Champlin, Williams, Friedstedt) - CWF (Review) 85 AOR Heaven
Lifeline LIFELINE - Scream (Review) 70 Escape
Khymera KHYMERA - The Grand Design (Review) 94 Frontiers
Blood Red Saints BLOOD RED SAINTS - Speedway (Review) 88 Frontiers
Harem Scarem HAREM SCAREM - Live At The Phoenix (Review) 92 Frontiers
Station STATION - Station (Review) 90 Electric Cheetah
Find Me FIND ME - Dark Angel (Review) 93 Frontiers
Pyramaze PYRAMAZE - Disciples of the Sun (Review) 90 Inner Wound
Worldview WORLDVIEW - The Chosen Few (Review) 80 Ulterium
Within Silence WITHIN SILENCE - Gallery Of Life (Review) 85 Ulterium

Pages

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.
 
Categories: 
 
Tue
09
Feb

PRIMAL FEAR - Rulebreaker (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
94%
Produced By: 
Mat Sinner
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
94
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
What we have here, is a metal monster! Yes, it’s tailor made for the metal audience, as have been all Primal Fear albums, so it’s a matter of personal taste of course. But if you have been a long time Primal Fear fan, or following Mat Sinner and Ralf Scheepers – then Rulebreaker is a buy or die release.
Contrary to the title, the guys don’t break any metal rule – instead they adhere to them to the letter. Big screaming riffs, big screaming vocals and a high impact rhythm section pounding out the tunes.
What the guys have done here is increase their credibility as one of Europe’s premiere pure metal bands.
And the energy within is hard to contain.
We have 11 tracks – all relatively concise at under 5 minutes and some under 4 – with one 10 minute epic right in the middle.
 
Highlights include the fast moving opener Angels Of Mercy; the darker chugging metal of The End Is Near and the more melodic Bullets & Tears (great hook); plus the anthemic Rulebreaker; the slow/fast/mid-paced/fast epic We Walk Without Fear and the brain crushing riffage of The Devil In Me.
The big metal ballad The Sky Is Burning is one of the biggest sounding tracks I’ve heard from these guys. Epic.

Everything I expected and have heard from the guys previously – just better. Really strong songs, a huge production and fabulous mix and lots and lots and lots of guitars. Loud guitars. 

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Tue
02
Feb

RESURRECTION KINGS - Resurrection Kings (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
87%
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
Frontiers
 
Resurrection Kings is another supergroup project from the minds of Frontiers Records and the production/writing hand of Alessandro Del Vecchio. It’s a similar formula to the similarly named Revolution Saints.
Alessandro Del Vecchio continues to grow in stature as a producer. This album has a big hard rock sound that is harder edge and rawer than his Revolution Saints production. The material also lends itself more to American hard rock than the more melodic tones of Rev Saints.
 
Of course, part of that is down to the fired up delivery of vocalist Chas West (Bonham/Lynch Mob). Joining the star vocalist is an equally impressive lineup of names:  Craig Goldy (Dio/Giuffria) shredding and riffing in such fine company as the rhythm section of Sean McNabb and Vinny Appice.
 
The album starts strong, but I’m not sure it holds together as well towards the end. The material becomes a little too familiar and I’m not sure why, but Chad West’s vocals throughout seem to always be at maximum volume. There isn’t a lot of light and shade here and by the end of the album, I’ve definitely heard enough.
 
Distant Prayer is a heavy, somewhat bombastic opener with a surprisingly commercial chorus and hook. I love the pace of the track, really gets the album off to a flyer.
Livin' Out Loud is much slower and finds itself in that heavy, slow groove that metal often uses –and I hate. Thankfully there’s a strong chorus in play and the song fits quite well between two faster tracks. If it wasn’t for the memorable chorus, this track really would have killed momentum,
Wash Away is pure commercial hard rock. A free flowing vibe and a big chorus and melodic verse. Very catchy and although miles heavier than Giuffria, it has a certain melodic kinship with the AOR legends.
Who Do You Run To has a classic 80s guitar squeal to kick it off and is another pretty commercial track, with a mid-tempo beat. It’s not a ballad but not quite a rocker either. But solid with another pretty decent chorus.
 
Fallin' For You is a moody mid-tempo tune that definitely reminds me of David Reece’s solo material. Big, moody, loud, but catchy in a metal kinda way. Some impressive guitar work within the 6 minute track.
Never Say Goodbye is as it suggests – a big commercial rock ballad. West soars, the chorus goes with him and AOR fans will enjoy this. The guitars still manage to shred behind the vocals.
Path Of Love is the kind of track I don’t normally like – slow, bluesy, big groove. It has musical integrity and some fine chops on display, but these types of song rarely have a great chorus. This one ain’t bad but this is where the album starts to lose me.
Had Enough moves a little faster but still holds a little in reserve. An ok chorus and some nice soloing feature.
 
Don't Have To Fight No More moves faster still and has a stronger chorus too. A good track to position here in the album’s sequence. It grooves and it flows well.
Silent Wonder has again, a less memorable chorus, but a good pace and some melodies that grow over time. But there’s no escaping the fact that the album has started to sound a little samey.
What You Take is similar to the last several tracks, featuring a strong sound, ok chorus and plenty of guitar flurries. It’s a bit slow and doesn’t feature a strong chorus to end the album on.

 
Great performances and a strong production. Goldy is the star of the show here I think and West delivers an authorative vocal, even if it is always set to 10. Or 11 even…
The songs aren’t as strong as the Rev Saints record, but this is a different musical beast.
It definitely hits the target of 80s inspired American hard rock, but perhaps could have been even better.
 

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Tue
02
Feb

NORDIC UNION - Nordic Union (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
94%
Produced By: 
Erik Martensson
Running Time: 
41
Release Date: 
2016
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
94
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Ever get an album that does exactly what you expect it to do, with the added bonus of blowing your mind with the quality of the songs? Nordic Union (the pairing of Swedish legend in the making Erik Martensson and Pretty Maids’ frontman Ronnie Atkins) is everything you’d expect if familiar with the output of both individuals.
 
Erik of course is the frontman for Eclipse, whose albums are an absolutely essential requirement for fans of classic melodic hard rock. He’s also the man behind the just as essential and critically acclaimed albums from Jimi Jamison, Toby Hitchcock and W.E.T.
So this is precisely the best of Erik (recent Eclipse, WET and Adrenalin Rush) meets a more melodic Pretty Maids (think My Soul To Take). Raspy vocals meets the highly polished and articulately mixed, bombastic hard rock style of Erik Martensson.
Exactly what you’d expect, but boy does this baby have a monster sound and a vacuum of energy that just sucks you in. It’s catchy, it’s powerful and it’s a marvellous pairing.
 
The War Has Begun is a strong opener, starting slow and building intensity, featuring a good chorus and some great guitar work. It’s a foundation song that the album builds upon.
Hypocrisy has a typically Eclipse feel to it, not to mention part W.E.T also. The songs stays within itself until the monster chorus bursts to life and builds the pace. Then it never lets go.
Wide Awake is nothing to do with the Eclipse tune, apart from a similar thumping beat and a very melodic vocal from Ronnie. It’s a catchy commercial rocker with layers of music to get through.
 
Every Heartbeat is another track with a strong Eclipse feel. The classy ballad builds from a moody intro to an intense full band second half. Possibly the best vocal I’ve ever heard from Ronnie, he really stretches here for a great result.
When Death Is Calling is probably the stand out commercial hard rocker of the album and is an instant like. It’s the fastest track thus far and features a huge crashing beat, a great chorus and a monster sound.
21 Guns is another instant classic for me. Some keyboards join in the mix for a very melodic and moody track. A terrific melodic, heavy chorus that delivers a perfect lyric and hook.
Falling is a breezy melodic rocker with a faster pace and a commercial feel. Definitely some Pretty Maids sounds here.
The Other Side rocks hard and fast. A simpler track than some others, but equally as enjoyable and a cool fired up rocker that adds tempo to the album.
 
Point Of No Return rolls along at a good pace and has a new twist for followers of Erik’s work. A great chorus again, if not immediate, it’s a grower.
True Love Awaits You is another quality big rock ballad that features harmonies, layers and a lighters in the air vibe. I can imagine Erik singing this and it’s another showcase of Ronnie’s more melodic side.
Go is simply a flat out rocker with a good hook and a big fat sound. Great energetic way to close the album. A big fat hard rock sound.

All in all, a wonderful album that delivers on the hype and promise that such a pairing brings. It doesn’t quite match Eclipse or W.E.T for me, as I’m drawn to those releases more by the vocal style - here Ronnie’s rasp isn’t as smooth as Erik’s other projects. But it’s still every bit an essential release and showcases both guys in a really high quality, world class release.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
25
Dec

MIKE TRAMP - Nomad (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Soren Andersen & Mike Tramp
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
88
Label: 
Target
Artist: 
 
Mike Tramp goes back to a full band set up for his latest album Nomad, but remains in the style and the tempo of his last couple of studio releases. This is another earthy, laid back collection of poignant songs of life, love and loss, told in a way only Mike Tramp can deliver.
 
Of course this isn’t for all fans of White Lion, Mike has long since moved on, but those like myself that have followed Mike throughout his career will as usual find a lot to like here.
Yes, it’s sparse and relatively laid back, sprinkled with as much acoustic guitar as there is electric, but it is nice to hear the type of songs Mike writes delivered with a bit more oomph.
 
The tempo stays relaxed for most of the record, so it’s not one to get fired up from, but rather a reflective lyrically deep set of songs that give an insight into how Mike sees the world at large and his own personal place in it.
Highlights from the consistent record include the classic Tramp opener Give It All You Got; the organ drenched Counting The Hours; the angst filled acoustic driven Bow And Obey; the dark yet musically breezy No More and the last two tracks which are very personal and open – Live To Tell and Moving On.

If you liked the last two Tramp albums, you’ll like this. Others will have to investigate first.
 

 

Categories: 
Tags: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
25
Dec

TEN - The Dragon And Saint George EP (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
Score: 
90
Label: 
Rocktopia
Artist: 
 
The new EP from Ten isn’t just a single track excuse to promote the current album – it’s a definite companion piece to the Isla De Muerta opus.
Featuring exclusive artwork from Gaetano Di Falco, the EP has three previously unreleased tracks. And what good tracks they are too.
 
The excellent album track The Dragon And Saint George is followed by an epic sounding Muskateers: Soldiers of the King - classic ‘pomp a-la-Ten’, while The Prodigal Saviour is an uptempo melodic rock ride as is the early AOR Ten sounding Is There Anyone With Sense.
 
The EP also includes the European bonus track 'We Can Be As One' in case you don’t have that. Well worth it of course. Simply put, more classic Ten.
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
24
Dec

MelodicRock REVIEWS IN BRIEF December 2015

 
90% CATS IN SPACE – Too Many Gods (Harmony Factory/Cargo Records)
What a fun album. The whole album could have been released anytime in the mid-late 70s and you wouldn’t have known any different. Listening to this is like walking into a drive-in diner in 1978 and hitting random selections on the jukebox.
The album is consistently strong, but quite varied also.
There’s ELO (Too Many Gods, Mr Heartache); Queen (Stop); Styx/ELO/Queen (Last Man Standing – easily the most memorable song); Elton John meets The Who meets Queen (Unfinished Symphony) and even 70s Meatloaf (Only In Vegas); The Who (Five Minute Celebrity).
It is really quite an impressive and very accomplished piece of work - especially for a debut album. I can’t imagine 70s rock fans hearing anything better than this in 2015.
 
 
87% C.O.P – State Of Rock (AOR Heaven)
This has the obvious musical comparisons to Grand Illusion and the glorious, over the top, high pitched pomp that band delivered. Why? Vocalist Peter Sundell is front and center here along with his brother Christian Sundell. For those missing the pomp/AOR of Grand Illusion and Peter’s unbelievably high vocals, then jump on this!
It’s like Grand Illusion, but it also has its own personality and delivers some outstanding Scandi-AOR material, while the production is top notch (thanks to Ola af Trampe).
Another memorable, high quality release.
 
 
93% ANBERLIN – Never Take A Friendship Personal & Cities – Live In New York City (Tooth & Nail)
I absolute love these two Anberlin albums – easily the best of their career and here they are, faithfully reproduced in their entirety in a farewell live performance. Both albums are stacked with great tunes, but these versions are even more electric, as the atmosphere captured here is truly compelling. Great recordings – live, raw and honest, and overflowing with emotion and energy.
 
 
90% MR. BIG – Raw Like Suchi 113 – Sendai Japan 2014 (Wowow Entertainment)
Another month, another Mr. Big release! Cashing in on their legendary status in Japan and their anniversary year, this new live album is every bit as essential as any of the band’s other live releases. Packed with songs from the last two studio albums and various other classics, the recording is overdub free and live as on the night – which is the usual engaging, high energy excellence these great musicians deliver every time they hit the stage.
Definitely recommended for Mr. Big fans.
 
 
88% DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES – Live In Dublin (Eagle Rock)
The unquestionable brilliance of Hall & Oates is captured on this double live concert, recorded in July 2014. As expected it is a hits rich set that covers many of the bands’ hit singles, but at 15 tracks over 2 discs, it feels a little underdone and I have heard so many great live sets from these guys that this one just doesn’t have the same wow factor for me as other have. It may be down to the actual set list – there’s at least 4 tracks I’d sub out in favor of others (Do What You Want, Las Vegas Turnaround, Back Together Again & It’s Uncanny). It makes for a pretty laid back mid-concert run of tracks. But the rest – magnificent as always.
Thankfully the glorious Out Of Touch, plus mega-hits Family Man, Maneater, Say It Isn’t So, Kiss On My List and Private Eyes are all included. And what can you say about a 15 minute version of I Can’t Go For That?!
The DVD is certainly more engaging and I’ve always loved the way the guys interact with the crowd (who are very enthusiastic on this occasion). And the band is incredible of course, as are the harmonies.
And man…it has to be said – Daryl Hall’s voice is beyond unbelievable. He hasn’t lost anything over the years, he sounds freeking crazy good. What a voice!
 
 
85% NEAL SCHON – Vertex (Mascot)
Not to be restricted by any conventions over how much music one should record or be limited by any one style, guitar legend Neal Schon delivers 90 minutes of whatever he wants…in this case, inspired and diverse instrumental music. 18 songs over two discs, with tracks ranging from 2 to 7 minutes in length, Vortex is Neal in his favourite setting – just letting go.
And what’s even better – he’s backed by Steve Smith on drums, providing the intelligent, musically complex drum and percussion needed for such a bold musical statement such as this.
There’s fast, slow, rock, jazz, electric, acoustic….you name it. Guitar instrumental fans will love, no question about it.
 
 
75% GUN – Frantic (Caroline)
Gun seem to have made the transition from the angst driven melodic rock/hard rock of their past with original vocalist Mark Rankin, to the new lineup with Dante Gizzi now up front. The sound change is vast – the guys are now a power/pop outfit with a feel-good uptempo vibe. This is the second album in this format. The songs are pretty consistently good once again, but the style is hard to accept after such brilliance previously.
There are some very catchy tunes here, some more guitar driven than others, but overall not as many highlights as the last album for me. I miss the old days but don’t see Mark returning to singing. What a waste.
 
 
90% PAT BENATAR & NEIL GERALDO – 35th Anniversary Tour Live (Indie)
Now this is a ‘greatest hits’ set I can live with. The talented duo of Pat and Neil shred through some of their most iconic hits in a (all) fired up, live raw setting.
The rocked up set includes the brilliant Shadows of the Night, Invincible, Sex As A Weapon, Promises in The Dark, We Belong, Love is A Battlefield (8 minutes in length) and an even longer Heartbreaker to close the set.
The only thing that bugs me is Pat’s slightly tweaked chorus vocal in the mega-anthem All Fired Up. Doesn’t work. Whatever though….the rest is brilliant and a great tribute to the songs included. Boy can that Neil guy play guitar…
 
 
84% ELEMENTS OF FRICTIONS – Pride Music Sampler
Great way to introduce your new label to the world – gather some of the best melodic rock artists around and compile a bunch of unreleased tracks. Kicking off with one of the best rock anthems you’ll ever hear – a new Marcello Vestry track When You Grow Up. Elsewhere it’s a little hit and miss, but the highlights are Area 51 (Matti Alfozetti), Don’t Leave Me Lonely (Matti again), Make You Mine (Larry Baud, written by, yes…Matti), Without Your Love from Snakes In Paradise, the Matti written Only My Heart (sung by Mats Levin), Another Me (Paul Laine) and Somebody Up There (Tommy LaVerdi), which rocks pretty hard.
 
 
86% MARK SLAUGHTER – Reflections In A Rear View Mirror (Thunder Spirit Records)
Slaughter frontman Mark delivers his debut solo album here – which rocks seriously and surprisingly hard. Not sure what I was expecting, but it’s heavier than I figured. It’s also more diverse. Some of the songs are screaming rockers (Away I Go, Miss Elainious); some are more reflective (Carry Me Back Home, Baby Wants).
Others are closer to the anthemic rock of Slaughter (Never Giving Up, The Real Thing, Somewhere Isn’t Here) and some are just something new altogether (Don’t Turn Away, In Circle Flight, Velcro Jesus).
Some of it works – some of it doesn’t. I’ll let the listener decide, but this is an interesting journey and does what a solo album does – offer the artist and excuse to try different things.
 
 
85% CAGE – Ancient Evil (The Metal Masses)
Traditional American metal at its loudest, fastest, intensest (no, that’s not a word…). San Diego based Cage have been doing the metal circuit for a long while now and they don’t let up with age. This is the heaviest thing I’ve reviewed here in a long while. You know what to expect. Fast, furious, screaming high pitch vocals and some of the most brutal double kick drumming this side of thrash metal. Did I mention the ear blasting guitar demotion?
All you need to know is that it’s well produced, features a balanced mix and sounds huge.
 
 
84% 7TH HEAVEN – Next (NTD Records)
The hardest working band in Chicago America never fails to deliver quality music. On their new album Next they introduce new vocalist Adam Heisler after Keith Semple left to chase bigger dreams. Adam changes the tone a little bit – his vocal is a little deeper than the very AOR-friendly Semple.
Song wise the band continue to pursue the modern pop direction set up by the last album, moving further away from AOR/melodic rock into dance/pop with a commercial power pop base.
Some hugely catchy tunes here, but a few others that I don’t feel have the spark of the last 2-3 albums. Not sure if it’s the songs or the singer to be honest. Maybe a little of both.
Still, you won’t find a better example of the genre should modern pop be of appeal. These guys are an industry unto themselves and if you don’t like this album (or any other), then you know they’ll always be back next year with more!
 
 
86% HUNGRYHEART – Dirty Italian Job (Tanzan Music)
Italian rockers Hungryheart deliver their third studio album and continue to grow as songwriters and performers, not to mention also in the production stakes.
Each album has improved upon the last, which is all you can ask of any band. This album features some catchy melodic hard rock songs with a strong European flavor. There are some hard rockers and a nice variety of moodier melodic tunes too and just the one ballad – Nothing But You.
Tracks like You Can Run, There Is A Reason For Everything and Time For Letting Go show real promise and give hope that the guys might be able to cut through the plethora of releases out there to find some new fans. Well worth checking out.
 
 
89% DENNIS DRIES – I (AOR Heaven)
White Sister’s Dennis Dries finally delivers a long awaited solo album and it doesn’t disappoint. He’s joined by the great Paul Sabu to create a very likable pomptastic classic rock release that’s quite diverse, yet very focused at the same time.
Diversity comes in the shape of the pomptastic Heard It On The Radio; to the sentimental AOR of “I”; to the acoustic lead Home; and back to the melodic hard rock of Unbroken.
Focus comes in the form of the precision and thought put into the music and the production. A lot of time and energy has gone into this record, no doubt.
This may not be for everyone, but White Sister and classic pomp/rock fans will surely delight in Dennis’ unique vocals and writing style.
Best thing about this album is how it stands out from the pack by being different than most other titles out there, yet familiar at the same time.
 
 
50% LIPSTICK – Lipstick (Indie)
At lot of great releases about this year, this is not one of them. Unless you are into really average mid-80s glam, cowbell and all. There’s 16 tracks and 65 minutes of music to get through here, all featuring the unremarkable vocals of Greg Troyan.
These tunes are apparently “Super Demos”. I’d agree with the ‘demos’ part if not the ‘super’, but otherwise I’d use the old analogy, some albums/songs remain unreleased for a reason.
It will take a very dedicated glam rock/Poison groupie to appreciate the contents of this disc.
 
 
80% KICKIN VALENTINA – Super Atomic (Target Records)
American sleaze/hard rockers Kickin Valentina released their debut album earlier this year. You’ve got a strong Guns N Roses/LA Guns/Ratt type vibe going on here, with heavy, dirty blues riffs, a driving rhythm and raspy, gravelly vocals all combining to form a pretty credible, high energy rock outfit.
Musically this is all in your face hard rock with bar room swagger and some impressive guitar soloing to match the screams of vocalist Joe. Not an album for fans of big hooks or big harmonies, this one is better suited for fans of the bands mentioned and the whole LA late 80s LA sleaze scene.
 
 
92% ROMEOS DAUGHTER – Spin (RD Records)
A long overdue review here for this new gem from one of the UK’s premiere female fronted AOR bands.
Once again Leigh Matty delivers a silky smooth vocal over a very tight performance form the band and guitarist/producer Craig Joiner.
Anyone who picked up and enjoyed the band’s comeback album Rapture will be able to slide this album right alongside.
Perhaps a little lighter/more laid back than the 2012 album and moving a little more into modern pop style, it doesn’t matter in the end. It’s just filled with beautiful songs and warm, inviting melodies such as the born for radio Already Gone and Love Will Come To Those That Wait, plus the moody Enemy and the haunting acoustic beauty of Didn’t See You Coming.
The driving All Because Of You and the closing Tall Buildings add a little fire at the end of the album.
 
 
77% POWERPLAY – All Those Years (Target Records)
The debut album from Danish pop/rockers Powerplay ranges from Alien style Euro-AOR through to Chicago/State Cows styled Westcoast pop.
I definitely prefer the AOR flavored tunes, of which there are several fine examples (City Of Love, Climb A Mountain, All Those Years). There’s a little Work Of Art/Toto in the mix also, but to be honest, I’m not entirely sold on the vocalist and sometimes the album crosses over into ‘too pink and fluffy’ territory. Worth a listen, but more work needed to bring themselves into the wider fan base this music has.
 
 
69% ST. PROSTITUTE – Glorified (Target Records)
Another big sleazy hard rocking album on show here – this time from Denmark’s answer to Hanoi Rocks. Well maybe not, but you get the idea. It’s all guitars and all gravelly, sleaze drenched vocals. This one isn’t as memorable as a couple of other reviewed, but it probably packs a more powerful guitar punch and there’s certainly isn’t any issue with the monster sound.
 
 
90% DIEMONDS – Never Wanna Die (Napalm Records)
These guys are being compared to Halestorm and the immediate reaction to the female lead vocalist and the classic-meets-modern hard rock approach seems to match.
But this is a different type of album to Halestorm. More traditional hard rock and definitely a step heavier than Halestorm. Vocals are great, riffs are fast, furious and frequent and the production is huge.
This deserves a longer review, but time is of the essence. It’s a really strong album that gets better and better. Highly recommended for fans of powerful female fronted hard rock and metal.
 
 
78% PRETTY WILD – Pretty Wild (Dead End Exit)
Pretty Wild are, well…pretty decent! Take the old school melodic hard rock approach, add in some Scandi sleaze, mix it up with Bon Jovi, Johnny Lima and Reckless Love and you will get a pretty fair idea of the sound of this album. Not quite as immediate or as essential as those named, but still pretty worthwhile.
 
 
85% REACH – Reach Out To Rock (Sunhill Productions)
Reach are… yes! Swedish! And they produce solid, high quality melodic rock. Who would’ve thought? These guys lag behind the front runners of the genre though. They feature a more guitar heavy sound with less keyboards. Plus the vocalist isn’t quite as engaging as some of the others in the Swedish melodic rock gang.
There’s a moody feel to this album, a darker undertone than the likes of BFT, Art Nation or Wigelius. Not bad by any means and one for fans of guitar driven melodic hard rock with a Scandi-accent. Well produced and packing a decent punch – just not as immediate or as hook driven as their compatriots.
Still some good choruses here though – especially You Called My Name, We Are and Fortune & Fame.
 
 
55% ROB MORATTI – Tribute To Journey (Escape Music)
I’m a big Rob Moratti fan. I’ve featured him here many times across the years and his various projects and he’s a terrific guy. Which is why this is hard to say – but I simply don’t see any point to this release at all. In fairness, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it and no one is expecting it to match the impact of an original studio album. Rob has a fantastic high pitch voice well suited for paying tribute to the great band Journey and vocalist Steve Perry. Nothing wrong with that!
However, I just don’t see any point in compiling 12 very very over-played, over-covered, over-done Journey classics and doing absolutely nothing different to them. This is a note for note tribute, which is always going to come off second best to the originals.
That’s a brave move by Rob as he’s only going to draw comparisons with Steve MF Perry afterall!
Perhaps there would have been some greater point to doing this if the songs were deep cuts or less recognizable hits. Or perhaps changed them up a little; make them heavier or acoustic in places….anything! Sorry Rob – I’ll hang out for the all-new studio album mate.
 
 
83% SHADES & PETERS – Let The Record Spin (Indie)
This album came out late in 2014 and has a similar musical play to the recent Tom Cochrane album.
Two rockers – you know them well – Rene Shades and Martie Peters, changing things up and creating something new – an acoustic driven, fairly laid back album touching on country, pop, blues as well as a little rock for good measure.
Despite my not so favourable verdict on the Cochrane album, Shades & Peters come out better off for delivering better quality songs.
Not everyone that has followed Push or MPG is going to be into this. And some that weren’t into those groups might indeed prefer this. It’s different that’s for sure.
 
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
24
Dec

ART NATION - Revolution (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
95%
Produced By: 
Jakob Herrmann
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock / AOR
Score: 
95
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
Art Nation is an absolutely superb slice of glorious Scandi-AOR. Yes, another Swedish masterpiece is upon us. Anyone who purchased or heard the very highly rated Diamond Dawn debut album needs to sit up and pay attention here.
The band features former vocalist of that band Alexander Strandell and all of that band’s best qualities – big keyboards, big guitars, big hooks, big harmonies and big attitude.
The album rocks pretty hard in places (for an AOR release at least), with a couple of tracks going into double kick drum territory.
 
The bulk of the songs however are just perfect, sweet, anthemic melodic rockers, with the tempo and feel good factors both “up”.
There’s a little Brother Firetribe and a little H.E.A.T sound to these guys, which I’m sure will bother absolutely no one reading this.
It’s song after song; chorus after chorus here. The record doesn’t let up for a minute.

At this time of year I have to push out too many reviews that deserve more space and time, but don’t let the brevity of this one stop you from checking out one of the year’s best pure AOR, 80s influenced releases.
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
24
Dec

RADIO EXILE - Radio Exile (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
92%
Produced By: 
Steve DeAcutis
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
You’ve got to hand it to Charlie Calv. Every project he comes up with has a remarkable similarity. That is – he delivers classic melodic rock records with a strong 80s background and that US East Coast musical touch, except no record ever sounds like anything else around at the time and nothing else, period. Shotgun Symphony and Skin Tag for example are both stand out bands with an original, left of center sound.
And so it is again with Radio Exile, featuring some of the most mature compositions of Charlie’s career to date.
 
Vocalist Chandler Mogul is someone who’s fronted some projects I love, but others I couldn’t stand. Thankfully in Charlie he has a great partner and his voice fits in perfectly.
You’ve got action from track one on this album – the no nonsense High Road, High Price and choppy No Pity On The Highway – bit for me the class of this album jumped a mile upon the arrival of the semi-acoustic earthy Feels Like Home. It’s a real gem.
The treats don’t stop there, as the guys channel Queen 1975 with the layered-pomp-harmony of Higher Than The Sun and still delivers with the moody melodic class of Hang On and the organ/synth soulfulness of Starting Over.
 
A Cross The Stone has to be one of the most soulful AOR songs in recent memories. Super slick, super smooth.
Road To Exile closes the album with a return to the choppy riff driven opening, delivering another memorable chorus.

Better once it gets going and once there, an unstoppable tour de melodic force. A terrific debut album from the guys, with a major production and some very memorable songs.
 

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
24
Dec

CWF (Champlin, Williams, Friedstedt) - CWF (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
85%
Produced By: 
CWF
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR / Westcoast
Score: 
85
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
This is nice little must have for Joseph Williams, Bill Champlin and Peter Friestedt. Peter has of course teamed with Williams before, but most recently the duo became a trio with the addition of Chicago’s Bill Champlin for the Live In Concert release.
This album of all original material is everything the names on the box would suggest.
Fans of Toto’s Seventh One album will love four of the five opening tracks – they are classic Toto AOR with Williams in fine voice.
 
Champlin fans get a taste throughout those songs, but Bill takes lead on Still Around and then again on Nightfly, which is also lush in harmonies and has that strong Toto influence.
Hearts At War is as smooth a ballad as you’ll hear this side of Air Supply’s Greatest Hits.
 
The last three tracks lose it a bit for me, heading out of AOR territory into Westcoast 101 and into a tempo more reserved for those considering their retirement plans.
Still, there’s nothing but class throughout. The 10 tracks are explicably produced and arranged, not to mention the near perfect instrumentation.
 
Some will find the tempo a little slow and mellow and some will find like I did, that the end is just a little too fluffy, but the opening 4-5 songs are just perfect soft AOR.

The new album also includes contributions from Steve Porcaro, Randy Goodrum, Will and Tamara Champlin. This must be a purchase for all card carrying members of the Westcoast Toto fanclub.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
24
Dec

LIFELINE - Scream (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
70%
Produced By: 
Paul Hume
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
70
Label: 
Escape
Artist: 
 
 
Interesting album this. Another duel-vocalist project from Escape, much like Ozone. This debut project puts vocalists Nigel Bailey (Three Lions, Bailey) together with fellow Brit vocalist Lee Small (Shy, Phenomena).
The band is rounded out by guitarist/producer Paul Hume (Demon, Lawless), drummer Steve Clarkson and keyboards from Andy Bailey (Three Lions, Bailey).
 
I’m not sure it works to be honest. There’s nothing wrong with the performances, both vocalists are great on their own and mix together here pretty well. The production is solid too.
But I’ve struggled with this from day one. I think the songs just aren’t strong enough. The classic rock vibe is also fairly common and done better on both Nigel Bailey’s other two bands.
 
The album struggles in that it’s not really hard rock, not really melodic rock, not really classic rock and not really AOR. It’s just an undefined mixture of all.
That’s not to say there aren’t some sweet spots. The groovy opener Fear No More rocks; the mid-album melodic gem Feels Like Love is probably the best of all and No His Angel’s Gone is a solid moody ballad.

Not too bad, but not enough spark for me personally. The names involved don’t match the quality of the songwriting or overall output. But fans of Bailey and Small in particular will feel a lot more positive about this.
Categories: 
 
Mon
07
Dec

KHYMERA - The Grand Design (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
94%
Produced By: 
Dennis Ward
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR
Score: 
94
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Like an overblown Jim Steinman Masterpiece, the new rougher, tougher Khymera explodes with the glorious symphony of 80s keyboards and Euro-AOR guitars that is the feisty rocker Never Give Up On You.
This is a slightly different Khymera than we last heard. Dennis Ward is the only constant through all the 4 releases, joined on this occasion by Eric Ragno on keyboards (an inspired choice); Michael Klein on guitars; Felix Bohnke on drums.
Dennis Ward has the prominent writer’s role here – involved in all twelve, with half co-written with Paul Logue (Eden’s Curse).
 
It’s a slightly heavier Khymera here, and slightly rawer, with Dennis’ vocals definitely turning up the rasp. But other than that, it’s classic Khymera all the way – that is, European, commercial melodic Rock and 80s AOR.
One big chorus after another – all bathed in layers of keyboards, guitars and harmonies.
At this point in time I’m leaning towards this being the best of the Khymera albums to date.
 
The quality of the songs simply demand it.
 
Never Give Up On You is one of the catchiest anthems of the year; Say What You Want is a classic old-meets-new rock ballad; I Believe is fast and free flowing AOR; A Night To Remember is straight out of the White Sister playbook, with 80s synth dominating.
Land Of Golden Dreams has a strong, dramatic Gary Hughes/Ten mood to it; The Grand Design goes into overdrive and Streetlight is one of the more lush, emotional ballads of the year.
Who’s Fooling Who is another highlight – perfect moody, uptempo AOR here.
Closing the album is the big piano ballad Where Is The Love, featuring a very soulful vocal.

 
What can one say? Three very strong AOR releases in one month by the same label – Frontiers. And all pretty much essential.
But if there’s going to be a pecking order, this just comes out on top.
Terrific old school AOR without sounding dated or repetitive.
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Mon
07
Dec

BLOOD RED SAINTS - Speedway (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Pete Newdeck
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR
Score: 
88
Label: 
Frontiers
 
British AOR newcomers Blood Red Saints was formed at the end of 2014 by singer Pete Godfrey and bassist Rob Naylor (Angels Or Kings). Fresh from his debut in the band In Faith, Pete walked away from that band, taking drummer Pete Newdeck with him as well as the Harem Scarem similarities.
The In Faith album was a very fine album and this also impresses with its classic British AOR sound, mixed with the melodic tone of Harem’s debut album.
Harry in fact takes care of the mastering of the album, with Pete Newdeck producing.
Lee Revill supplies the guitars in the best tradition of Vinny Burns and Dare.
 
I’m not particularly into the opening two tracks, which is odd, but for me they don’t hold the class that shows further into the album – starting with the Foreigner-esque commercial ballad Best Of Me, which is instantly catchy and an obvious first pick to showcase the album.
Dangerous, which follows, is even better though – the sound really is old-school AOR and the way Pete channels Harry Hess’ vocals is another selling point.
A triple play of AOR class is completed with Love Set Me Up Again.
 
The melodies and the sentimental choruses keep coming with Wrapped Up In These Arms, The Best Thing, Feels A Like Like Love and the big sparse vocal and piano driven ballad Faith.
 
In the best tradition of fellow British AOR names such as Dare, Ten, FM, Newman and of course the one-off In Faith album sits Blood Red Saints. Definitely hoping the band goes beyond this debut to develop further as I think there’s a lot to look forward to.

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 

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