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Reviews

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Artist Title Score Label
Foreigner FOREIGNER - The Best Of 'Foreigner 4' And More (Review) 68 Frontiers
Angels Or Kings ANGELS OR KINGS - Kings Of Nowhere (Review) 85 AOR Heaven
Bailey BAILEY - Long Way Down (Review) 82 Frontiers
Billy Idol BILLY IDOL - Kings & Queens Of The Underground (Review) 93 BFI Records
Harem Scarem HAREM SCAREM - Thirteen (Review) 99 Frontiers
Allen/Lande ALLEN/LANDE - The Great Divide (Review) 84 Frontiers
Vega VEGA - Stereo Messiah (Review) 94 Frontiers
Dalton DALTON - Pit Stop (Review) 88 Frontiers
Dennis DeYoung DENNIS DEYOUNG & The Music Of Styx - Live In Los Angeles (Review) 90 Frontiers
Stryper STRYPER - Live At The Whisky (Review) 86 Frontiers
Heart HEART & FRIENDS - Home For The Holidays (Review) 50 Frontiers
Sammy Hagar SAMMY HAGAR - Lite Roast (Review) 33 Independent
Ten TEN - Albion (Review) 93 Rocktopia Records
Whitesnake WHITESNAKE - Live In '84 - Back To The Bone (Review) 68 Frontiers
In Faith IN FAITH - There's A Storm Coming (Review) 90 Rocktopia Records
Rated X RATED X - "Rated X" (Review) 89 Frontiers
Adriangale ADRIANGALE - 'Defiance' (Review) 93 Kivel Records
Tango Down TANGO DOWN - 'Charming Devil' (Review) 87 Kivel Records
Mr. Big MR. BIG - The Stories We Could Tell (Review) 94 Frontiers Records
220 Volt 220 VOLT - Walking In Starlight (Review) 75 AOR Heaven
Miss Behaviour MISS BEHAVIOUR - Double Agent (Review) 88 AOR Heaven
Dead End Heroes DEAD END HEROES - Road Kill (Review) 84 AOR Heaven
Grand Design GRAND DESIGN - Thrill Of The Night (Review) 92 AOR Heaven
Work Of Art WORK OF ART - Framework (Review) 99 Frontiers
Adrenaline Rush ADRENALINE RUSH - Adrenaline Rush (Review) 89 Frontiers
State Of Salazar STATE OF SALAZAR - All The Way (Review) 92 Frontiers Records
X-Drive X-DRIVE - Get Your Rock On (Review) 85 Frontiers Records
Mike Tramp MIKE TRAMP - Museum (Review) 87 Target
Dark Horse DARK HORSE - Let It Ride (Review) 87 Indie
Asia ASIA - High Voltage Live (Review) 40 Frontiers Records

Pages

Tue
09
Jun

EDEN'S CURSE - Live With The Curse (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Eden's Curse / Mixed; Dennis Ward
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
88
Label: 
AFM
Artist: 
 
Its double-live album heaven the past few months with career spanning sets from Van Halen, Sammy Hagar and Axel Rudi Pell all recently released.
And of course this fine little double live album from Euro-rockers Eden’s Curse.
 
Live With The Curse covers the band’s 4 studio albums during a 100 minute sonic blitz that simply oozes energy and is expertly mixed once again by Dennis Ward.
Naturally with new recruit Serbian born vocalist Nikola Mijic, the current set list and this live album delves heavily into the current studio album Symphony Of Sin.
 
Culled from that album are no less than 8 tracks, namely, Symphony Of Sin, Break The Silence, Fallen From Grace, Rock Bottom, Devil In Disguise, Wings To Fly, Unbreakable and Evil & Divine.
Naturally this is where Nikola shines, able to blow fans away with a flawless display of power and melody on Break The Silence, Wings To Fly, Fallen From Grace and, especially on the moodier, tough to sing Rock Bottom and full blast opener Symphony Of Sin.
His higher range is a great asset for the band.
The guys (and Nikolo) aren’t afraid to cover what would have to be called the band’s “classics”, tracks like Masquerade Ball, Trinity, Judgement Day, Fly Away and Jerusalem Sleeps all come across great here – these are some of the best melodic hard rock songs of the last decade, no doubt.
 
There’s some pumped in effects and backing vocals, but overall the performance on the night was exceptional the recording is excellent and the mix is even and balanced. So this has to be a must purchase for all fans of Eden’s Curse, new and old.
 
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Tue
09
Jun

AXEL RUDI PELL - Magic Moments, Live (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
84%
Produced By: 
Axel Rudi Pell
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
84
Label: 
SPV
 
Axel celebrated his 25th Anniversary last year with an all-star concert event featuring guests from throughout his esteemed career.
From his early days in Steeler, to his early solo career with Jeff Scott Soto, through to today, continuing on with Johnny Gioeli.
The concert takes a cool snapshot of that entire span in chronological order.
Unfortunately it starts with the worst segment of the night, the Steeler reunion, all mainly due to the rough and largely unlikable vocalist Peter Burtz.
Thankfully we go from the basement to the penthouse after just 4 tracks, when Rob Rock jumps onboard for Nasty Reputation, the title track of the album he fronted.
Then it’s on to Jeff Scott Soto, who slays the crowd as usual with Warrior and Fool Fool.
 
The current ARP band is then ushered to the stage to deliver some Axel goodness. 3 of the next 5 tunes are over 9 minutes in length and one is 7. It’s Axel at his epic best, with Johnny singing his heart out. Strong As A Rock and Long Way To Go are both high energy delights and a 9 minute Hey Hey Now Now is the very definition of epic.
30 minutes of crossover tracks and live favourites follow until a few more covers appear – Montrose’s Rock The Nation is short, sharp and to the point; Ronnie Atkins joins in for Black Night; Tush features John Lawton and a 14 minute Mistreated features Doogie White, Tony Carey and Johnny Gioeli.
Graham Bonnet, Michael Voss, Doogie White tear down Since You’ve Been Gone, with Long Live Rock n Roll and completely over the top Smoke On The Water close out this truly epic event.
 
3CDs or DVDs might not be enough for flag waving ARP fan club members, but for the general populace, it’s more than enough and a fitting high quality way to pay tribute to one of Germany’s finest ever guitarists and metal legends.
Truly one for the fans here.
 
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
22
May

TOM COCHRANE - Take It Home (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
65%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
content: 
Can’t Stay Here
Diamonds
Country Girls Never Get Old
Pink Time
Produced By: 
Tom Cochrane
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Canada
Musical Style: 
Classic Rock/Blues/Country
Score: 
65
Artist: 
 
Tom Cochrane is one of my favourite singer/songwriters of all time. He’s right up there with Rick Springfield, John Waite and Paul Laine. I cannot emphasize how much many of his songs mean to me personally.
However, with just a measly two studio albums since 1998’s excellent X-Ray Siera, Tom’s really pushing fan patience. With an 8 year wait between albums, they had better be good.
 
I’ve left reviewing this album for a while as the last album No Stranger got an initially tepid response from myself, rating it too mellow, too laid back and lacking any real drive.
How wrong that initial assessment was. The album is one I’ve come to appreciate more over time, a very fine release indeed, with some of Tom’s most heartfelt ballads and while laid back, it also features some of his finest lyrical moments.
So with the arrival of Take It Home and that similar initial disappointment for the same reasons – laid back, slow and seemingly very lackluster, I held back to give the album time to grow.
 
Unfortunately it hasn’t. Tom’s declined further into the slow, acoustic driven old-man-syndrome that other artists like Bob Seger have suffered.
What’s worse, Take It Home crosses genre’s to touch on that other ‘must go to place’ for veteran artists – yes, that Nashville/country vibe, with slide guitar and a distinct twang featured on several tracks.
The album is diverse in nature, covering blues, country, roots and gospel, all delivered with Cochrane’s distinctive wail.
But despite the valid musical integrity of such an outing, there are only a handful of songs that resonate with me here at all, which is tragic when you consider how long fans have waited for this.
 
On the plus side is the pop/rock mid-tempo acoustic Can’t Stay Here, which despite a country slant features a nice smooth vocal and decent chorus.
Diamonds is more Tom Cochrane sounding and is a refreshing high quality mid-tempo tune.
Despite the title, Country Girls Never Get Old, still manages to deliver a crossover old/new TC sound, mixing slide guitar with organ and electric guitar.
Pink Time is a beautiful laid back ballad with some extraordinary co-lead female vocals (from who I don’t know, I have a digital promo only thus far).
 
On the negative for me is several unfortunately. The jangly lead single Sunday Afternoon Hang is simply Life Is A Highway meets Kid Rock and is the best of neither; When The Light Starts To Fade is pure blues/country but goes nowhere; First Time Around is a distorted fuzz/rock tune that just grates; A Prayer For Hope is old-school country and Back In The Game is just hokey R&B.
 
 

Tom’s vision of creating a southern American themed album featuring country, blues and gospel is achieved here. There’s a lot of heart and soul poured into these songs and for that you can’t fault Tom. But for me it’s just not something I want to keep coming back to, especially when some of the songs just don’t have enough life in them to draw you back and a couple of others just grate on my ears.
There are a couple of new TC classics for sure and the depth of lyrical talent is still there, but the catchiness and the traditional Tom Cochrane sound is not.
 
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
22
May

RED MONDAY - Red Monday (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
85%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
Jim Miller / Mixed: Larry Millas
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Classic Rock
Score: 
85
Label: 
Indie
Artist: 
 
There are a lot of big names releases this year already with plenty more to come. It’s just one of those banner years. But we must not ignore the newer bands and indie releases as it isn’t just the big boys that can deliver.
 
One such act is Illinois rockers Red Monday. Formed around guitarist/songwriter and producer Jim Miller and mixed and mastered by Ides Of March’s Larry Millas, with guest spots from Millas and fellow Ideas man Scott May; Red Monday produce a brand of guitar driven classic rock with an organic Midwestern feel.
 
Sometimes the guitars break out a little more such as the spirited opener She’s On Fire and the fast paced Sanctuary and bar room rocker You Move Me.
Elsewhere on the album the sound diversifies into Tom Petty, John Kilzer and John Mellencamp territory, albeit with a more prominent guitar presence.
It’s quite a varied album, but the best quality here is the production – it’s a big sound for an indie release and Millas has delivered a very balanced mix.
 
There’s a lot to like about this album. The only small issue I have is with the vocals. Singer Rick Harris has a tone that’s not for everyone and I think takes away from a couple of songs. On others it’s no issue at all, but surprisingly Jim Miller takes lead on the upbeat southern rocker Broken Promises and I find myself preferring his voice over the main one.
That’s a small issue though and one which different folks are going to have different views on.
 

Fans of classic rock, Midwestern Americana and 80s American hard rock should take a listen to the album via the showcase on this site.
They might just be another new band worth adding to your collection.
 

 

Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Fri
22
May

MAGNUM - Escape From The Shadow Garden Live 2014 (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Tony Clarkin
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
88
Label: 
SPV
Artist: 
 
Since reforming, Magnum has kept an increasingly busy recording/touring schedule that bands half their age would be envious of. The band’s last studio album was Escape From The Shadow Garden, which has spawned this document of the tour that followed.
There are very few heritage bands that have a fan base willing to indulge the band with a set list heavy with new songs rather than relying on milking the classics to within an inch of their life.
 
But each album and each tour sees Magnum change things up to showcase the new material and the fans lap it up, and here is no different.
The entire first half of this live album is all new tracks and I have to say, they translate into the live arena beautifully. There’s energy there, there’s passion and conviction in the delivery.
Live Til You Die and the ultra-heavy Dance Of The Black Tattoo shine; while the second half of the set includes the legendary All England’s Eyes, Kingdom of Madness, Les Morts Dansant (another stunning version), plus a just brilliant version of Vigilante and an iconic 11 minute How Far Jerusalem.
 
Bob Catley might sound a little croakier than once upon a time, but his tone and delivery still capture my attention and respect every time.
The band packs a punch as usual and the recording quality and the live mix is really impressive.
 

Another memorable live release from one of Britain’s great melodic rock acts. A rousing delivery of some new and old makes for a really enjoyable ride.
Essential for all long time fans I would say.
 
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Tue
19
May

TEN - Isla De Muerta (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
92%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
content: 
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Acquiesce
This Love
Intensify
Angel Of Darkness
The Last Pretender

 
Produced By: 
Gary Hughes / Mixed: Dennis Ward
Running Time: 
62.32
Release Date: 
May 20
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
Rocktopia
Artist: 
 
Ten’s newie touches on just about everything that the band is known for - Gary Hughes’ simple, but warm vocals; pomp flavoured hard rock tunes that run the gamut from simple to epic; totally bonkers lyrics about spectral astrology, mandrake twilight, dragons, distressed wenches and stuff like that; and a comforting knowledge that band ringleader Hughes knows where his strengths are and plays to them.
The best thing about this recent revival in Ten’s fortunes is Gary’s refined production skills. This album features a massive sound, mixing a triple powerhouse guitar attack with a rich deep organ and keyboard presence, all mixed into a clean wall of sound by Dennis Ward.
 
The album picks up where Albion left off. Where Albion’s style and sound could arguably be placed against the band’s classic debut, so to can this sequel be placed alongside the band’s original Name Of The Rose opus, which followed the self-titled debut.
I’m impressed with the lineup now in play. I hope they can maintain some stability there now.
 
Opening with the epic Dead Men Tell No Tales, the band’s boisterous sound is in full flight, with guitars dueling like clashing swords upon the good ship Ten.
Tell Me What To Do is a keyboard filled pomp rocker with some curious lyrics, but a commercial, poppy chorus.
Acquiesce is darker and a little more intense and is classic Ten all the way.
This Love is a terrific classic Gary Hughes ballad with soaring vocals and guitars all the way. You’ve heard it before from Gary, but I’m happy to keep hearing quality ballads like this.
The Dragon And Saint George features swirling keyboards, fast twisting vocals and keeps up a decent pace throughout.
Intensify is another fast moving melodic rocker, but this one stands out for a brilliant vocal melody in the chorus and a classic Ten sound. Love this one and it runs over 7 minutes.
 
The even more epic 8 minute The Valley Of The Kings is reminiscent of the Name Of The Rose album again, taking a long way around approach, with soloing guitars all over this one.
Revolution clocks in at over 6 minutes, giving the middle part of the album a really epic feel. The track itself is a punchy fast moving hard rocker with some impressive metal guitar soloing.
The moody and heavy Angel Of Darkness moves even faster, with drummer Max Yates earning his keep.
The Last Pretender is a 7 minute melodic rocker with a big groove and another appealing chorus structure.
It wouldn’t be a Ten album unless we closed with a simple, piano ruled sentimental ballad. This time it’s We Can Be As One doing the job. The song builds to a big finish in pretty quick time.
 

It’s another must have for long time Ten devotees and anyone who really enjoyed last year’s Albion release.
Big guitars, big production, big pomp and some epic songs about love, life, scurvy dogs and pillaging the seven seas. What more could you ask for?
 
Categories: 
Release Year: 
2015
 
Thu
07
May

EUROPE - War Of Kings (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
94%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
content: 
01. "War of Kings"
02. "Hole in My Pocket"
03. "The Second Day"
04. "Praise You"
05. "Nothin' to Ya"
07. "Days of Rock 'n' Roll"
10. "Angels (With Broken Hearts)"
Produced By: 
Dave Cobb
Running Time: 
54
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
94
Label: 
UDR
Artist: 
 
Since making a comeback a decade back, Europe have trodden a similar path – a more organic sound, heavier and more modern sound and production, but above all, the albums have been delivered with a sense of confidence and definite purpose.
Fans have generally been very warm to the band’s updated sound and I must say that despite a few fillers on each album, their recorded output has been very consistent and stays on brand.
Now onto album number 5 since 2004, War Of Kings takes up where Bag Of Bones left off, just taking it to the next level. And leaving behind the Kevin Shirley production that many are not fans of.
This is a record heavily derived from a classic rock 70s sound, with a modern production acting as a balancing force.
I’ve found each of the last 4 albums to feature some career highlights, without at any stage absolutely nailing a classic album.
 
This time though, the guys might just have done it. Surprisingly the album appeals more to me than any other despite an obvious lack of pacing throughout.
This is a really slow paced album, whether it is the hard hitters or a couple of more sentimental tunes. But pacing aside, the songs are just enthralling.
 
Highlights are plentiful. From the opening slow thunder of War Of Kings to the rare frenetic pace of Hole In My Pocket to the Zeppelinesque classic rock of The Second Day with its surging chorus to the almost gospel feel of the heavy, ultra-slow Praise You, featuring an extraordinary vocal from Joey Tempest.
You might think the intensity of the album might let up a bit, but no; it only gets more intense with the mid-tempo bombastic hard rock of Nothin’ To Ya, a truly powerful track with an organ drenched chorus.
California 405 does relax the vibe slightly before the raucous (and obvious single) Days Of Rock N Roll sees the peddle put to the metal with the most instantly likeable riff on the album.
Children Of The Mind and Rainbow Bridge are both very credible classic rockers with their own style and Light it Up has a groove more akin to Extreme than Europe.
The highlight of the second half and of the album as a whole is the simply beautiful Angels (With Broken Hearts). What a classic slow ballad.
 

The band’s best album in my mind since reforming because it is track for track more consistent than the other (also good) albums.
I’ve heard mixed fan reviews for this, but I think those mainly come from those waiting for Prisoners In Paradise 2. It ain’t going to happen folks.
Crank the tempo a little more and have another tune or two like Days Of Rock N Roll and a classic is born.
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
07
May

VAN HALEN - Tokyo Dome In Concert (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
85%
Produced By: 
Van Halen
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
85
Label: 
Warner Bros.
Artist: 
 
Is it at all possible to review this release without making the voice of frontman David Lee Roth an issue? Better for me if I don’t, as lunatic members of the DLR fanclub will certainly riot should anyone dare state the obvious.
But, at the risk of doing something I hate - sitting on the fence - it ain’t that bad. We are talking of course about the current (and recent) vocal abilities of the great Sir David Lee Of The Roth – a frontman so iconic in rock n roll circles that it is almost an 11th commandment to hold him in reverence.
 
I’ll roll out the cliché that Dave was always more frontman and circus ring leader than styled vocalist, but his charisma and charm (plus fronting the best band on the planet) made him a household name.
I like Dave – I like his energy, I like his intelligence and wit and I like (most) of his recorded output over the years.
Yes, his voice is kinda rough, even for an old guy, but his fitness and stage aura is unquestionable and it is that factor that gets him a pass on all concert appearances and therefore this live document of the band’s 2013 tour.
 
I’d probably rather hear Dave then watch Dave, his antics are a bit much sometimes, so the lack of DVD here is not an issue for me.
There is also at least a dozen other Van Halen live concerts that fans rank higher in demand than this outing, but this is both the first appearance of Dave and Wolfgang on any official live release.
Any archival live release would have to involve Michael Anthony (I had to mention him, didn’t I?) and that would just be awkward…right?
 
So, Tokyo Dome - In Concert is here and you know what, I may have a far more enthusiastic love of the Sammy Hagar era (yes, I had to mention him too), but you cannot deny the band is on fire here and Eddie Van Halen – wow. It’s one of life’s joys to hear him play any riff at all, let alone those to the iconic Hot For Teacher, Panama, Unchained, Mean Street and Running With The Devil.
Yes, there are vocals that make you cringe occasionally and yes, they miss that Mike Anthony wail, but this is a pretty nice raw, 100% live on the night recording.
And I’m especially enthusiastic about the new inclusions – China Town, She’s The Woman and Tattoo (ok, maybe a little less so on that one…), but A Different Kind Of Truth was a fricken awesome album and deserves to be part of the classic set list of songs.

I love Van Halen. They frustrate the shit out of me though. I’d much prefer a new/old/anything studio release. C’mon guys, time waits for no man, get on with it! 
But in the meantime this will do for a while, or at least every time it gets warm enough for a BBQ.
 
Categories: 
 
Wed
06
May

TALON - Fourplay (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
91%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
Ty Sims & Talon
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
91
Label: 
Escape
Artist: 
 
US rockers Talon have been through a few singers now, while the core of the band has remained the same. The guys have delivered 3 solid albums, but the debut with vocalist Michael O’Mara is still my favourite, so when news of Michael’s return to the band came through, Fourplay instantly become an anticipated album.
This time the guys have hooked up with Bombay Black’s Ty Sims to handle production duties. He’s someone who really knows his way around a mixing board.
And the combined results of Ty and Michael’s involvement on this record help make some quality songs even better – therefore it’s pretty easy to say that the band have delivered arguably their best album to date. Without question the best since the debut.
 
The only thing I can’t figure out is why Spun opens the album. It’s probably my favourite track on here actually, but sonically it is unlike any other track and more pop/rock than hard rock. It features guest Tim Pierce on lead guitar and an instantly catchy chorus. But maybe not the pick of the album for an opening track.
Aside from that, the rest of the album moves into the regular Talon beat of catchy hard rocking songs with a melodic heart, good rhythm and plenty of guitar licks.
Michael’s voice is made for these guys.
 
It’s easy to see why the tracks Sin City Sister and Holly Would are right up front – classic Talon right there.
Rockers Evil and It’s A Fine Line both impress and the mid-tempo melodic rocker Raise Em High is a nice sentimental touch.
On a lighter note, the acoustic I Don’t Wanna Cry is another departure for the band, but in a good way. The mature ballad flows beautifully and almost matches the production vibe of Spun.
The more familiar styled ballad Tonight is another highlight.
 

Anyone that’s followed John Parker and the guys knows what to expect and that’s exactly what you get with this album. Only better.
Good old-school American hard rock, with a couple of twists in there to keep fans on their toes.
 
Categories: 
Tags: 
 
Fri
24
Apr

PETERIK/SCHERER - Risk Everything (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Jim Peterik
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
95
Label: 
Frontiers
 
Sir Jim Of Peterik returns with another essential dose of pure, classic melodic rock, on which the songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist has built his career.
And alongside Sir Jim on this occasion is a new partner in crime, a new Knight of the AOR Realm, vocalist Marc Scherer.
This is one for anyone that has appreciated Jim Peterik’s vast contributions to the rock world.
The 80s AOR of Survivor; the pomp of Ides Of March and the birth of Jim’s own identity via Pride Of Lions and his work with Jimi Jamison on Crossroads Moment.
The voice of the Peterik machine is fellow Chicago native Marc Scherer, who whilst having a long local musical history, will now be heralded as ‘another’ Peterik discovery.
 
His contribution to this album is a vital one. His voice is extraordinary. He lifts these already great tunes into classic territory and the warmth in his tone brightens these songs immeasurably.
Marc has the perfect AOR voice. He mixes Jimi Jamison’s higher range and Toby Hitchcock’s lower register to create another essential voice to Jim’s work. No wonder Jim decided he just had to do an album with him.
 
Risk Everything has all those Peterik trademarks – soaring vocals, passionate ballads, rousing anthems and feel good lyrics and sentimental melodies.
And for the delight of Peterik fan club members (and perhaps the frustration of others), there’s also a little of Jim’s own unique pomp-n-stage style rock opera friendly songs in the mix.
 
The quality of this album is to be praised. Risk Everything is akin to the debut Pride Of Lions album and Crossroads Moment and features perhaps the best production quality and mix to date from Jim’s usual band of brothers – Larry Millas, Mike Aquino, Ed Breckenfeld and Bob Lizik.
The vocals have already been praised (as should the multiple harmony vocals throughout – from Marc alongside Alex Ligertwood); the drums are perfect; the mix of keyboards and guitars even and balanced.
 
The songs hint at classic Survivor, the best of Pride Of Lions and also a determination to stand on their own. Jim and Marc have spent a long time getting this album right over the last few years. It has been worth the wait and I can’t imagine any fans of Jim or Jimi or Toby not eating this up.
There are many highlights – in fact, each track on the 11 song album has its own place and identity. This is also the closest to Survivor I have heard yet from Jim.
 
After a rousting intro, the album explodes with Risk Everything - one of the AOR songs of 2015 with its driving beat and the rising verse to a long chorus double dose of melody.
Chance Of A Lifetime is almost Vital Signs material such is the keyboard heavy melodic rocker with a feel good aura.
Then there’s Cold Blooded which sounds again like an 80s movie anthem with a modern production and a strong chorus punch.
Desperate In Love has that I Can’t Hold Back kind of classic AOR feel.
Thee Crescendo is everything some love (and some hate) in Jim Peterik’s theatrical side. The over the top pomp rocker and lyrical salute to music belongs on a stage somewhere. Peterik fans will love it as I do.
Elsewhere on the album is the magic big ballad How Long Is A Moment; the Pride Of Lions rocker Brand New Heart; the moody Broken Home and the soaring mid-tempo AOR Milestones which features another great vocal from Marc.
The regular album closes with the feel good, free flowing melodic rock tune Independence Day.
 
The Japanese edition features 2 bonus tracks.
The Man I Am is almost reminiscent of Ever Since The World Began, but a step up in tempo. It’s a great ‘up’ ballad.
And Moments To Memories is simply another solid Peterik uptempo feel good melodic rock song.
There are two additional tracks recorded for the album that were at the last moment swapped to the Fergie Frederiksen/Jimi Jamison tribute album The Torch.
Both tracks were written in tribute – one for each singer. Heaven Passes The Torch for Jimi – a rousing anthemic AOR track with several guest vocals and some inspired vocals and harmonies.
You’re In Our Hearts is the tribute to Fergie and also sung once again by Marc. And what can you say – it’s a monster ballad that is a fitting tribute to the great man.
 

You know the sound, you know the style, you know the quality. The only thing left to work out is where you will buy this great album from.
 

 

Categories: 
 
Fri
24
Apr

IMPELLITTERI - Venom (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
86%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
content: 
Produced By: 
Impellitteri
Running Time: 
40
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
86
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Chris Impellitteri has never been one to steer off course, so the contents of this disc should come as no surprise to fans, or to anyone for that matter.
Impellitteri is the Axel Rudi Pell of the shred metal world. Predictable but very talented, largely consistent and always enjoyable. Even better now that Rob Rock has rejoined for the last couple of albums. His voice and Chris’ manic riff-n-shred guitar playing go hand in and for me.
The only question is the songs – what kind of appeal will they have and what hold will they have over the listener.
The album starts with a flurry of screaming guitars, Rob Rock’s screaming voice and drummer Jon Dette hell bent on doing himself an injury; such is the tempo of the double kick drums.
In fact, his performance and the overall drum sound is a big plus on this album. James Pulli on bass ensures the speakers come within an inch of their life from the pounding they receive.
 
There’s 12 tracks here, but the album is still over faster than one of Chris’ solos. 40 minutes of music with only one song reaching the 4 minute mark, means there is no time for filler, no time for padding – just shredding, screaming and of course solos everywhere.
For me this is one of Impellitteri’s strongest albums. My favourite, the immense Answer To The Master will likely never be beaten, but this is solid for a veteran artist that continues to make new music.
 
The sound is immaculate and the songs, while similar in pace and tempo are memorable.
The particular standouts for me this time around is the opening Venom, the big groove of We Own The Night, the aggressive harmony backed Nightmare and the pounding intensity of Face The Enemy.
The rest – all good, if not similar, but that’s what we love about Chris.
 

No hesitation in recommending this to fans of Impellitteri and even casual fans if you are looking for some well-produced, hard hitting melodic metal.

 

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Fri
24
Apr

FM - Heroes & Villains (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
FM
Running Time: 
55
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock / AOR
Score: 
92
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
While you wait for Def Leppard to eventually release their new album and (probably not) return to their classic sound, melodic rock fans can feast in the delights of the new FM album, which sees the reborn British AOR legends crank the guitars further up in the mix and really hone in on that multi-layered, harmony filled, big production Def Leppard FM sound of the 80s.
FM have been going long enough now that they have a big, dedicated fan base that has followed them through the 80s, into the less notable 90s and back into the light of the last several years, which has seen a true renaissance for the band.
The pinnacle of their activity since reforming has to be this album.
Production is huge, mix is crisp, balanced and clean and if the songs are anything go by; long standing fans are going to need extra lotion to handle the glorious melodies.
And it’s hard to say such a thing for a band that’s been around 30 years, if you’ve never taken FM out for a test drive this will be the album to get you started.
 
Digging In The Dirt is a stop-start groovy rocker; You’re The Best Thing About Me is a glorious anthemic AOR monster, which has to be one of the band’s best ever songs. Vocalist Steve Overland just gets better with age.
Life Is A Highway is a simpler driving kinda tune, while Fire & Rain returns to a sultry groove.
Incredible is a brilliant ballad. A…well, incredible ballad!
Call On Me is another album highlight, a smooth, feel good, foot tapping melodic rocker with a huge chorus; Cold Hearted is a heavier Def Leppard style rocker; Shape I’m In switches back to the feel good layered harmonies; Big Brother is a moodier, brooding rocker; while Somedays I Only Want To Rock N Roll is my one skip of the album. I just don’t dig the lyrics or the vibe.
I Want You is more Leppard harmonizing and the album closes with the immensely personal and enjoyable soulful ballad Walking With Angels.
 

Another year, another new FM album and yes, another triumph! Essential for those that have the 3 albums since reforming and for long time fans it goes without saying.
Filled with finely produced and performed pomp and AOR, this British stalwart of the melodic scene continues to deliver without any signs of aging. 

 

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Fri
24
Apr

KISKE / SOMERVILLE - City Of Heroes (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Mat Sinner
Running Time: 
55
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
87
Label: 
Frontiers
 
5 years after an acclaimed debut, the team behind Kise/Somerville regroups for a sequel. The resultant album – City Of Angels – is everything the debut offered and more.
 
All the key players return – German metal singer Michael Kiske and American symphonic metal vocalist Amanda Somerville, along with producer and bassist Mat Sinner, who once again wrote the bulk of the album with guitarist/keyboardist Magnus Karlsson.
There is no major disruption to the formula of the debut or the same formula used by Karlsson on his Allen/Lande releases – that is dueling powerhouse vocals over a bed of swirling keyboards and ear crunching riffs and an in-your-face rhythm section (featuring drummer Veronika Lukesova).
 
Mixed and mastered by the best guy in the business, Jacob Hansen, this album has an even greater sonic impact than the debut and is another great example of Karlsson’s much loved bombastic style.
Song wise, we’re in safe hands and Sinner/Karlsson turn in some memorable melodic metal songs, with an even mix of power and pomp.
 
The opening title track is a wide choice to kick off the album while Walk On Water is an easy choice as single, being the most commercial track on the album.
Salvation is a free flowing anthemic metal track (written by Somerville)
Lights Out has an instantly likeable hook and is a great foot thumper.
And so it continues through the album in very consistent fashion. The tempo is kept up apart from the dreamy ballad Ocean Of Tears and the more impactful After The Night Is Over.
The feisty Open Your Eyes stands out, as does second from last Run With A Dream.
One thing I did notice quite clearly is that the star of this album is Amanda Somerville. She’s all over these songs and Kiske is definitely the minor player here.
 
 

Another easy purchase for fans of the debut and both singers. There’s no change in the formula and what is expected is delivered.
The production quality does seem to have jumped a notch or two and the clear mix makes for an easy listen.
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
02
Apr

CARE OF NIGHT - Connected (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
Erik & Anders Wigelius
Running Time: 
49
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
AOR
Score: 
90
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
You’ve gotta hand it to the Swedes. No matter how many great albums they throw at us, there’s always more coming up right behind.
The latest purveyors of the fine classic AOR/melodic rock tradition is Care Of Night a group formed out of the demise of heavy rockers Seven Tears.
After a couple of lineup changes the band that would record this debut album was locked in.
 
What we have here is another wonderfully produced slice of Swedish AOR perfection.
Erik & Anders Wigelius (of fellow Swedish AOR favourites Wigelius) are responsible for the slick sound and mix, while the band themselves have written some classy traditional AOR songs with an updated feel so as not to date the music.
 
Vocalist Calle Schönberg has a touch of Peter Cetera in his tone, while the rest of the band simply delivers another lesson in ‘how Sweden does great music’.
Think Wigelius, State Of Salazar, Work Of Art, Houston, FM, the original Heat and you get the picture – happy, easy going pomp/pop AOR with layers of vocals and keyboards in that uptempo feel good style we all love.
The metal roots from a couple of the guys means that there’s some extra punch on occasion here, but the majority is very commercial AOR.
 
The free flowing lushness of Cassandra and Heart Belongs gets the album off to a perfect start. But it doesn’t stop there, with Those Words equally catchy and a big ballad Dividing Lines delivering sentiment in spades, even throwing in some saxophone.
Say A Prayer is impossibly catchy in that Work Of Art style of AOR; Please Remember adds a bit of tempo; Give Me Strength reminds me of British rockers FM and Say You Will is a 7 minute epic to close out the album, featuring a soft acoustic guitar and lead vocal until near the 5 minute mark when the band kicks in for a raucous climax.
 

You got it folks – if you’re a paid up member of the Swedish Ministry Of Melodic Rock – then you know what to do.
Another wonderful example of a genre that refuses to grow old and die.
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
02
Apr

LEVEL 10 - Chapter One (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
75%
Produced By: 
Mat Sinner
Running Time: 
53
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
75
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Going one better than Level 9, but not quite turning the dial to 11, the partnership of vocalist Russell Allen and Bassist/producer Mat Sinner form the new project Level 10.
Joining in is powerhouse guitarists Roland Grapow and Alex Beyrodt; Randy Black on drums and Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards (yes, him again!).
Mat Sinner doesn’t produce bad sounding records and Russell Allen doesn’t deliver substandard vocals, so there are two big ticks.
 
Songs is what it is all about. On this 12 track debut songs are provided by Sinner & Allen, Alessandro del Vecchio, Magnus Karlsson, Alex Beyrodt, Carsten Schulz, Sander Gommans & Amanda Somerville. Thing is, there’s no credits assigned to each track, so you have no idea who really wrote what.
The collection of names indicates that things could be quite varied on the album, and so it turns out to be. But apart from a few real highlights, while the album sounds great, I found most of the material lacked a real spark or hook to draw me back in.
 
The album opens with Cry No More - an absolute blinder of a song - a full metal blast with a great hook and some awesome vocals.
Unfortunately it’s followed by Soul Of A Warrior - possibly the worst track on the album - a near 6 minute plod fest that never seems to end and kills the momentum of the opening track.
When The Nighttime Comes picks things back up with an improved pace and better chorus hook.
But then once again, another plodder. One Way Street has a pretty forgettable chorus and not much life to it.
As if going back and forth between good and not, Blasphemy is a more hard hitting metal.
Last Man On Earth then follows the pattern, with a pretty drab and forgettable chorus while In For The Kill cranks things into high gear, even if only for 4 minutes.
Of the last 4 tracks, the metal ballad All Hope Is Gone stands out as an album highlight; Demonized a solid melodic metal track following straight after.
The others I don’t care for unfortunately.
 
 

A great looking project on paper and I expect there might be a sequel at some point – as the album title suggests, but the participants will need to ensure a more consistent group of songs to make a lasting impression in a crowded market.

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Thu
12
Mar

CRAZY LIXX - Crazy Lixx (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Danny Rexon & Andy Zata
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
88
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Crazy Lixx nearly threw away all the good work they’d done with their first two albums with the release of #3, Riot Avenue. The rawer, more restrained direction was a big step backwards after the glorious New Religion and the impressive debut Loud Minority.
Opting for a self-titled moniker, album number 4 thankfully sees the band recapture everything that fans loved about the first two records.
 
This is the logical follow-up to New Religion, we can just forget about Riot Avenue now!
Changing the lineup slightly sees new bassist Jens Sjöholm join and the return of original drummer Joél Cirera.
The energy, the pomp, the big guitars, the screaming vocals and the anthemic songs are all back.
 
Kicking off with the pounding of Hell Raising Women; through the blazing Sound Of The Loud Minority and the passionate pleas of Outlaw; to the commercial hit Girls Of The 80s; Crazy Lixx are back!
The feel good pomp rocker I Missed The Mark has a huge chorus while Call To Action is about as catchy as the band has been able to deliver to date.
Heroes Are Forgiven isn’t far behind and the album finishes on a high with one of the groups fastest rockers yet in Wrecking Ball Crew.
 

Welcome back to the real Crazy Lixx. No hesitation in recommending this to any fan of the first two records and those that love that big, loud, old-school approach with contemporary production to make it slick and modern.
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Wed
11
Mar

ISSA - Crossfire (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
93%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
John Greatwood and James Martin
Running Time: 
46
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR
Score: 
93
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Norweigan-turned-Brit, Issa returns with her fourth solo album; following up the patchy Can’t Stop, which was comprised of classic (and obscure) AOR covers.
I’ve found Issa a bit hit and miss after her memorable 2010 debut. I’ve found the balance of image over style a little too much in favor of the less important image at times, but all is forgiven with Crossfire. Despite the glammed up image again front and center, this time the style is matched with substance in the form of 11 very appealing songs. This album might just be her best effort yet.
Credit must go to the new lineup used, bringing in Vega’s James Martin – Keyboards and Tom Martin - bass and Guitars; plus drummer Michael Cruise has given the album more of a band feel - and a good band at that.
 
The extended time taken to gather the best set of songs also pays off, showcased immediately with the glorious title track opener Crossfire, which I probably will rate as my favourite Issa track to date.
New Horizon offers something a little smoother and moodier before the monster ballad Raintown blows us away.
Steve Overland guests on the song as a duet – but it is his opening lines that simply stun. His vocal gift is extraordinary. Issa joins in to deliver a passionate and powerful co-lead.
Long Time Coming is one of the more urgent tracks on offer; Fight Fire With Rain is a very catchy straight ahead AOR hit and Heartbeat cranks the tempo and throws in a nice anthemic catchy hook.
The album continues without offering filler, Red Lights and Only You delivering the best chorus hooks of the last section of the album.
 

Fans of female fronted melodic rock and straight forward classic AOR with a Scandi/British twist should fall over themselves to get a hold of this.
It’s one of my favourite female lead albums in recent years.
 
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Fri
06
Mar

SOTO - Inside The Vertigo (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
95%
Produced By: 
Soto
Running Time: 
55
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Score: 
95
Label: 
EarMusic
Artist: 
 
With change comes controversy. But for those that have followed vocalist Jeff Scott Soto’s vast and acclaimed career, you should not only expect change, but embrace it!
After all, you know it’s coming…and if one particular project is not a personal home run, then you know something else is just around the corner.
As most should know I’m a long time dedicated JSS fan and he’s a good friend. But that shouldn’t mean praise comes easily.
If anything I’m harder on those I respect most, as I expect the best every time.
It’s the same with many artists. Most of the time I feel as if these great artists deliver – because they are the best of the best. But none of them (despite the occasional suggestion otherwise!) have been immune from criticism. That includes JSS. But not on this occasion!
 
I’ve read a great many comments on this album from others. Some people don’t like the heavier, modern style. Some like heavy stuff, but aren’t gelling with this one. Others have longed for Jeff to do something truly ear shattering and are eating this album up with fervor.
And then there’s those that have followed Jeff through everything he has done and just appreciate whatever comes next – from the AOR of Prism; to the anthemic groove infused Talisman years; the straight ahead melodic hard rock of Lost In The Translation and Damage Control; to the pure stadium AOR bliss of W.E.T and Eyes; even through the Prince inspired soul/funk of Love Parade and the mature singer/songwriter pop of Beautiful Mess; released under the JSS moniker.
I could go on, but you get the point – Jeff Scott Soto never stands still and rarely repeats himself.
So Inside The Vertigo is just another chapter in an astounding career.
 
Such as the Beautiful Mess album went under the JSS moniker to differentiate from his normal known range of styles, so to has this album been singled out as a new band, so the name Soto has been adopted.
 
Soto’s “debut” is a truly accomplished piece of work. Yes, it’s super heavy as far as JSS fans are used to; yes, it’s far more contemporary than the classic rock we’re more used to hearing, but this set of songs packs a powerful punch.
I’d describe this as a mood album. It’s a time and place album for when you are fired up or want to get fired up. It’s a great record for driving to, but Soto accepts no responsibility for any fines incurred.
For those afraid of the production effects and the in your face, tuned down metal riffing, I suggest you concentrate on nothing but the vocal. Because as hard hitting as it is, at the heart of all JSS material lays vocal melody and hooks.
You can dress it up as metal, funk, pop or rock…but Soto always sounds melodic and it’s a distinct voice I can listen to anytime, anywhere.
 
This album runs the gamut of metal stylings. There’s the punchy riff driven Final Say, which while heavy, eases the listener into the album.
The heavy groove and cynical lyric of The Fall is impossibly catchy, even with a short chorus.
Then there’s the bombastic drum and rhythm of Wrath, which hook and vocal harmony wise isn’t that far removed from a classic JSS sound.
Break is intense. Dark, slow to mid-tempo…and intense (did I mention that already?). But still, the chorus is right there and filled with the same kind of melodies of Lost In The Translation – just darker and heavier.
Narcissistically Yours is a grinding, effects filled groovy rocker with another scathing lyric. And the vocals are huge.
End Of Days has to be everyone’s favourite song. This truly epic masterpiece winds its way through 9 minutes of atmospheric mood, to hard hitting angst, slow glorious guitar work before turning into a double time shred styled metal anthem half way through before once again changing direction for the last 2 minutes, bringing in a children’s choir to add to the already amazing atmosphere of this song.
Inside The Vertigo is another classic JSS style hard rocker, once again, just heavier and modernized.
The awesome metal ballad When I'm Older should really be all over rock radio, but you know that’s never going to happen. It’s classic JSS – especially vocal wise. This is a good entry point for those unsure about this album.
Closing the album is a four pack of metal goodness. Trance is super intense; Jealousy gets even heavier and a little faster; Karma's Kiss is slow and dark while Fall To Pieces ends the album on a somewhat simpler, but no less impressive hard rocking note.
 
 

Production on Inside The Vertigo is fabulous. It’s a huge wall of sound. The consistency of the songs on this record makes it one of Jeff Scot Soto’s finest works to date.
It really is a monster of a record and the intensity, the immense guitar work from Jorge Salan and groove from the rhythm section (David Z - bass and Edu Cominato - drums) cannot be understated. This is one talented group of musicians.
This is a true album. Not a group of songs cobbled together. This is a work of art.
That said, it certainly won’t be for everyone, but long time Soto fans should embrace this with enthusiasm as a few new fans come to admire one of the best rock n roll frontmen ever.
 
Categories: 
 
Fri
20
Feb

TOTO - XIV (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
100%

 

section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
Running Out of Time
Burn
Holy War
21st Century Blues
Orphan
Unknown Soldier (for Jeffrey)
The Little Things
Chinatown
All The Tears That Shine
Fortune
Great Expectations
Produced By: 
CJ Vanston & Toto
Running Time: 
59
Release Date: 
March 23
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
100
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
If Falling In Between and Hydra got it on with The Seventh One and Fahrenheit at a club called Tambu, then the kid would called Toto XIV.
In a word: brilliant.
In several: Toto XIV is a complete change of pace from Falling In Between, but is far more representative of the Toto legacy.
In fact, if someone asked me what Toto sounded like, previously I'd be hard pressed to think of which album best represented who they are as a band. It always depends on my mood. Not anymore.
Toto XIV is a virtual greatest hits record, covering every facet of the band's classic sound, with a fresh contemporary production that's bigger than Ben Hur's big bits.
 
Toto XIV is a different beast compared to the band’s last album, Falling In Between, released some 9 years back now. There’s been a fair list of events to document in that space though. There has been the break up with vocalist Bobby Kimball; a live reunion to support Mike Porcaro (sadly suffering with ALS); the return of Steve Porcaro and David Paich to touring; the return of famed vocalist Joseph Williams (of Fahrenheit and The Seventh One fame); the departure of drummer Simon Phillips - with Steely Dan drummer Keith Carlock joining for the recording of this album (but now replaced by Shannon Forrest for the tour); a lengthy (now settled) lawsuit and not least of all, the return of original bassist David Hungate for the tour and also several tracks on this album.
 
I wasn't sold on XIV straight away like I was Falling In Between. But that goes to my previous point about the complexities revealing themselves over time and also the fact that while FiB was a true rock record, XIV is more laid back and inclusive of the band’s true historic sound.
This is a Westcoast/AOR record with moments of rock angst, much like the two Joseph Williams fronted albums.
It appears simpler on the surface, but the truth is it has a ton of layers, subtle and sublime arrangements and an underlying intensity.
Produced by CJ Vanston and the band, this record is the sonic equivalent of Gone With The Wind.
 
The word “subtle” gets used a lot in describing the songs here. The songs work far better as an entire listening experience. This flows beautifully as an album start to finish. So with that in mind, let’s go track by track:
 
Running Out Of Time is the lead track and our first taste of Joseph Williams back fronting the band. It’s a pulsating track that leads off with a definitive Luke riff similar to that of the opening to Falling In Between. But it’s a lot smoother and considered than FiB.
The bass of Tim Lefevbre (his only appearance on the album) thumps, but its Joseph that’s well in control. He sounds a million dollars and just sounds so comfortable alongside the unmistakable Toto sound in play.
The verse rolls along in quick time before a sonic blast of a chorus tears the song up.
Joe hits some notes not heard on a Toto record since The Seventh One while Luke’s guitar solo is measured and blended with some fine Paich keyboards, bookended by the song’s bombastic chorus.
Drumming legend Keith Carlock gives the sound an added complexity that continues throughout the album.
 
Burn is really quite extraordinary. It’s a song with two distinct aspects. A haunting verse and one of the biggest, most bombastic choruses Toto has ever composed.
Opening with an instantly memorable Paich piano hook and building slowly with a subtle drum fill and added keyboards, Joseph’s lead vocal is electrifying and simply devours the song once the chorus literally explodes. The bass line (courtesy of Lee Sklar) and Keith’s drumming delivers a rhythm section music aficionados will be in raptures over.
Just when the song couldn’t get any better, in comes some massive layered vocals only Toto can deliver. It reminds me of the mood of I Will Remember from Tambu.
The last minute of the song offers so much intense musical interplay that I found myself still discovering new parts a dozen listens in. Paich and Steve Porcaro’s piano layering in particular.
Lenny Castro as always adds percussion that simple cannot be described.
 
Holy War is, if anything, a defining Toto song. It just sums up this band and for me, sums up everything that I love in music. What appears to be a fairly simple melodic rock song is so much more once you dig beneath the ridiculously catchy chorus (where Joe shares lead with Luke) and the smooth melodic verse. Joseph’s vocals appear so simple, but listen to the execution of the softer vocal lines - such finesse cannot be taught.
The lyrics bite deeper than usual for Toto, talking religious hypocrisy and pleading for peace.
Luke’s guitar solo is classic Toto, classic Luke.
 
21st Century Blues is the first of several left turns in the album, with a distinctly Luke solo flavored track here, a bluesy mid-tempo swaggering song that could easily have fitting amongst his last couple of solo albums. David Hungate is playing bass on this track, the song is further Toto-ized with Carlock’s drumming mirroring that of the great Jeff Porcaro and Joseph Williams adds some fine harmony vocals.
The 6 minute track reaches its peak at the 5 minute mark, after which comes a flurry of piano and guitar dueling, which really makes the song.
 
Orphan is Joseph at his very best. Another extraordinary track, this song is a feel good rocker from the start. You just know something special is coming and the song deliverers, bursting to life with an energetic, melodic verse and a pomp-tastic blast for the chorus.
Once again, the song appears simplistic, but once you get further involved, you can see just how complex it is and the drumming is really exceptional. Luke again attends to bass duties.
My only wish is that the concluding part of the song featuring Luke’s lead guitar solo went for longer before fading out.
 
Luke is back on lead vocals (plus acoustic and electric guitar and bass) for the slow to mid-tempo epic Unknown Soldier. The moody, atmospheric five minute track has layers of instrumentation and percussion and a short, but decisive chorus, but the real joy of the track is the intense musical backdrop, which shows the genius of the talent in this band. The percussion and drumming in particular is another mind blowing display.
Luke’s constant touring in recent years has really fired up his voice. His vocals on this album are quite honestly the best I have ever heard from him.
 
It’s time for a break in the intensity of the album. And it’s time for Steve Porcaro to make his lead vocal debut on The Little Things. Steve isn’t that far from Joseph Williams’ tone and sounds great on this laid back, acoustic driven Westcoast melodic pop song. A simple song it seems, but the background layering of acoustic guitars and percussion take repeated listens to dissect. Hungate again appears on bass to give it that authentic Toto rhythm.
 
Chinatown is another song that only Toto could ever write. Or get away with! The song almost defies description, but I’ll try.
Leading off with a piano intro and a Paich vocal, there is a very quick back and forth with Paich and Williams trading lead vocal lines, but when Joe’s in control, he is accompanied by a bombastic burst of instrumentation, energy rivaling that of Burn from earlier in the album.
Then Luke buts in with his lead vocal delivered over a smooth jazzy passage of music that leads to the equally smooth jazzy chorus. Only Toto can do three lead vocals within the first minute! The subtle guitar/piano work is quite unbelievable as is the drums/percussion. So the song is jazzy, Westcoast pop song with a rock hook and a bluesy bass riff from David Hungate. Don’t forget the horns and saxophone. Genius!
 
It’s time for a sentimental ballad. While the second half of the album may appear softer than the first, this is the first real ballad. All The Tears features David Paich on lead vocal and some more outstanding piano work, with Luke taking over for the smooth, instantly likeable chorus hook, Joseph in the background on harmonies. The song has a really appealing chorus, a beautiful track all in all. Tal Wilkenfeld guests on bass on this and the following track.
 
Continuing a mid-tempo pace, Joseph Williams returns to lead vocal duties for the very smooth rock track Fortune. Another track that grows on repeat listens and features a distinctive Lukather guitar presence, not to mention plenty of Toto-esque special effects and percussion fills. Luke’s guitar tone is pure classic Toto. The closing minute or so of the album features another round of piano/guitar dueling that typifies the adventurous nature of these great musicians.
 
The regular album closes with what has to be another milestone song for Toto. This is just impossibly good. Mixing the history of the band into one track and reminiscent of the crazy good Dying On My Feet from Falling In Between, Great Expectations is a wild and crazy seven minute track. Starting very low key with some orchestration, piano and Paich’s vocal, the song quickly accelerates, moving from 5 to 95 within seconds, with a dashing slice of frantic keyboards and some thumping bass from Lukather. Joseph Williams then takes over vocals as the song goes from strength to strength, ramping up the pomp with every twist.
Piano joins in for a higher pitch, anthemic chorus before turning back to how it all started. At the 3 minute mark the rule book is thrown overboard and it’s a musical free for all. The song winds through a restrained guitar solo, some atmospheric arrangements, an ethereal medieval styled guitar riff before turning complexly insane, featuring a truly progressive section of classic Toto IV harmonics, keyboards, piano, percussion, guitar and then bang….back to one final epic chorus. Breathtakingly good and the perfect way to close out any album.
 
For Japan there is the added bonus of another Steve Porcaro song – Bend. What's more - it's all Steve on this track - he plays all instruments. The song features another quiet vocal, over a new-age styled simple arrangement. The song lasts just under 3 minutes and isn’t essential, but at the same time, is a beautiful, sentimental song featuring some classy acoustic guitar work from the "other" Steve.
 

Toto’s complex history is replicated in their music. No one does it like Toto does.
The long wait between records was entirely worth it. Toto deliver another all-time classic with Toto XIV - a record that hides it’s complexity within some apparently simple songs whose layers are pealed back with every subsequent listen until your mind is filled with layers and layers of instrumentation and orchestration. Sometimes you feel as if you are listening to an entirely different song by paying attention to the different aspects within them.
 
Categories: 
 
Wed
28
Jan

REVOLUTION SAINTS - Revolution Saints (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Running Time: 
55
Release Date: 
February 20
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
95
Label: 
Frontiers
Any project touting Deen Castronovo on lead vocals is going to get my attention and enthusiasm. To add Mr. Melody Jack Blades and the righteous Doug Aldrich turns a triple play into a home run.
Overseeing the project in man of the moment Alessandro Del Vecchio, adding his always brilliant keyboards, plus composing most of the songs and adding his deft touch to the production, which I think has to be his most accomplished effort yet.
‘It is a musician's record,' states Castronovo of the project. Indeed it is. There are a plethora of examples of exquisite musicianship from all throughout the record, none more so than Castronovo himself, who delivers a masters clinic on how exactly to play on a rock record with power, soul and finesse.
 
While I am somewhat hesitant to embrace superstar projects that aren’t born from a natural evolution of personalities and circumstances, this project totally makes sense and thanks to some amazing songs from Del Vecchio, delivers in spades.
Of course I’d prefer all three guys to be amongst the writing credits, but now this album is done and done so well, perhaps discussions about the next album will allow that to happen. And there sure will be a follow up to this. It’s just too good.
 
Back On My Trail is a dramatic album opener that rocks as intended. Upbeat and driven by a thumping beat and some hard edged, but melodic guitar riffs.
Deen bursts through the speakers with power and authority in his own natural tone, which is a combination of the sweet tone of Steve Perry and the power of Jeff Scott Soto.
He lets rip a few notes that simply stun. And his drumming is quickly simply insane. There are drum fills and progressive twists throughout the song.
A terrific guitar solo with numerous flourishes throughout shows what a master Doug Aldrich is, while Jack Blades’ bass truly thumps away.
The song itself is a powerhouse melodic hard rocker that sounds like Journey meets Night Ranger, but with the sonic edge that Doug brought to Whitesnake. Harmonies abound and the chorus is simple, but memorable and gets better with every listen.
 
Turn Back Time is co-written by Alessandro and Jack Blades and is an easy choice for the first single. The feel good anthemic and uptempo melodic rocker sees Deen and Jack share lead vocals, with Deen doing his finest Journey style melodies and everyone joining in to take the chorus over the top. Some more tasty guitar soloing and an infectious foot thumping beat makes the song a clear winner. Deen again is a monster on drums. How does he do it?
 
You're Not Alone sees Alessandro Del Vecchio’s piano opens the first ballad of the album. It’s only a matter of seconds before the power of this song is on display. Arnel Pineda and Deen share lead vocals in a very recent era Journey-esque track that features layers of keyboards and rich musical depth. It’s a big power ballad that reminds me heavily of the more dramatic songs off the LRS album (also written by Alessandro). It’s a big and powerful ballad where vocals are the emphasis and there’s plenty of them!
 
Locked Out Of Paradise is a monster melodic hard rock tune. It’s one of the heavier album tracks and is maybe the most powerful song I have heard Deen Castronovo appear on since Hardline. The drumming is stunning, while the vocals are pure Perry-goes-metal.
The chorus gets better and better and the song structure is such that it takes the classic melodic hard rock format, but modernizes it. Doug’s guitar playing is sublime from start to finish.
 
Way To The Sun features an acoustic guitar and a soulful vocal greeting the start of the next track. Another ballad? Not sure I’m ready for that, but that vocal! Then 1 minute in, the song bursts to life, with the full power of the band in action. The chorus is beautiful – harmony vocals, a powerful drum rip, an authoritative guitar riff. Neal Schon guests on the track with a typically soulful flurry of guitar chords that is pure Journey. The track continues building throughout, so by this time it’s in full epic mode, with vocals, guitars and harmonies. Beautiful track.
 
Dream On is a song written by Erik Martensson, with Johan and Kris Becker, Alessandro and Jack Blades. The combined collaboration works, as this is a brilliant pure melodic rock stadium anthem, with Deen sounding like a raspier Escape/Frontiers era Steve Perry.
The chorus is pure ear candy and the energy infectious. Erik Martensson’s writing influence here is undeniable. Melodic bliss.
 
Don’t Walk Away is another ballad and to be honest, at first I thought it was too early for another ballad, but once again, that fear is dismissed with the first note Deen sings. Wow, this guy has soul and passion that’s been kept hidden for too long.
The song starts as a soft piano ballad, with Deen and Alessandro featured together until the chorus sees a full band accompaniment. And what a chorus. A hit single in any other era.
A monster Alessandro song that is pure Journey. The end of the song is simply epic and some of the notes Deen hits are insane. This song features some big big vocals and a great guitar solo too.
 
Here Forever is another ballad, but like each slower track before it, it is different once again and stands on its own. It’s probably one ballad too many and it does make me question the sequencing of the album, but you can’t deny that the song is soulful, powerful and emotional. It’s more rock then ballad and Deen’s voice is outstanding once again. Definitely reminds me of Journey.
 
Strangers To This Life – it’s time to fire proceedings back up again. Deen goes full Perry for this moody rocker that might have sounded pretty comfortable on Journey’s Trial By Fire.
 
Better World is another upbeat melodic rocker that has a strong European feel and a good mix of Journey too. The verse and bridge-to-chorus is pure Journey, while the chorus is more Euro-melodic rock, with keyboards a plenty. Of course there is a tasty Aldrich solo and some rolling bass thumping from Jack. Alessandro takes a writing credit with Magnus Karlsson on this one.
 
How To Mend A Broken Heart is a ripping version of the brilliant Eclipse track. This has all the energy of the original and Deen sounds brilliant singing it. That rasp in his voice is a joy! For those that don’t know Eclipse, let this be an introduction to the fabulous Swedish band.
 
A sparse piano ballad to close the album. While another ballad might not be on the menu for some, In The Name Of The Father is a stunner almost worth the price of the album alone. Deen’s vocals send a shiver down the spine as just his voice and a piano deliver the first half of the song. There’s orchestral backing and then the full band chimes in. Truly a magnificent, epic ballad and the song itself (from Alessandro on his own) is brilliant. Steve Perry would be proud…
 

So there you have it folks. On paper, the lineup looks amazing and on record the guys deliver. More a product of Alessandro’s pen and production efforts, but the performances by the guys are what makes these songs come to life.
We’ve always known that Deen Castronovo is a freak drummer and an amazing vocalist, but this album propels him into the spotlight and he excels in both roles.
I’d love to see these guys hit the road, I can only imagine the setlist, but duties with their main bands will no doubt curtail any fan hopes.
 
Categories: 
 
Wed
28
Jan

Lande & Holter DRACULA - Swing Of Death (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
Holter & Lande
Running Time: 
45:37
Release Date: 
2015
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
90
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
It’s a “concept” album, so it automatically gets the “artistic license” accreditation allowing the artist to express themselves a little “differently” than expected. And while that’s certainly the case for this little outing. Crafted by former Wig Wam guitarist Trond Holter along with Jorn Lande, as far as concept albums go (apart from a few quirks), it’s pretty straight forward melodic hard rock.
It’s always great to hear Jorn at full force working with a different writer, as he stretches those vocals beyond the formula his solo albums have become.
He sounds fantastic on this album, utilizing his menacing voice to the power needed on such a concept dealing with the life of 15th century resident Count Vlad the III
, Prince of Wallachia, widely known as Vlad, The Impaler or by his patronymic name Vlad Dracul(a).
Jorn takes the lead role, singing with his usual power and intimidating snarl, even if he does look constipated throughout the video for the song Walking On Water – which for the record is one of the best lead vocals I’ve heard from Jorn in years.
 
The opening track Hands of Your God is also a belter, an imposing moody track that smolders along with Jorn in full control.
Swing Of Death is one of the few left turns, the quirky, burlesque, almost pop sounding song that has a very 80s commercial chorus. The metal ballad Save Me has a similar feel, Jorn joined on vocals by the heroine of the story, Norwegian singer Lena Fløitmoen (representing Mina/Lucy from the Bram Stoker book).
 
The straight forward and catchy rocker River Of Tears has a strong Wig Wam vibe running through it.
The epic Queen of the Dead has some brilliant guitar work, especially as the song explodes into the final minutes.
Under the Gun closes out the album with a pretty commercial, yet heavy statement, plenty of guitars and vocals from both singers.
 

Good stuff for all fans of Jorn. The album has that certain Wig Wam flair also, while employing a darker and heavier delivery.
The subject matter could have resulted in a very self-indulgent piece of music, but this little outing is surprisingly commercial and accessible for all.
Well produced, great vocals from Jorn and some likable songs rounding out a solid release.
Categories: 
 
Fri
23
Jan

ECLIPSE - Armageddonize (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Erik Martensson
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
February 20
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
100
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
Perfection! I could listen to Erik Martensson sing and Magnus Henriksson play guitar all week long. Eclipse delivered one of the great melodic rock albums with Are You Ready To Rock, building on the sound their first two albums established.
Then in 2012 they turned it up a notch for Bleed & Scream, the sound heavier, the sonic impact of the production even more powerful. I rated it their best album ever and gave them a perfect 100.
If I could go to 101 I’d do so, as this album is even better. In every way.
 
There is just so much joy in listening to this album. This is everything I love about melodic hard rock. Monster production; designed to be played at stupid volumes; intricate; brilliant songs that evoke emotion and adrenaline; musical performances that blow your mind and vocals that are just perfectly crafted for this type of music.
I really have to single Erik out here for his out-of-this-world vocal performance. He’s always been a great singer, but this album has to launch him into the annals of the legends. Yeah, I know I’m hyperventilating, but they really are that good.
 
And the songs – so damn likable and so amazingly catchy.
 
Armageddonize is the perfect mix of the melodic side of Are You Ready To Rock with the power and intensity of Bleed And Scream and is undoubtedly the band’s best album to date.
 
I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry - After a brief build up, we are away with one of the catchiest hard rockers that Eclipse has delivered yet. It has all the energy and sonic impact of Bleed & Scream, but the chorus is a monster AOR anthem. The riffs run fast, the power unmistakable. Erik Martensson sounds amazing and Magnus slays on guitar. The rhythm section is just as powerful as the sonically brilliant last album.
The opening track runs straight into the even heavier Stand On Your Feet. The verse features some mighty vocals before a high impact chorus blasts through. The riffing is furious and the drumming impeccable. And it's as catchy as hell once again.
The Storm starts with an acoustic guitar before the song literally explodes with part of the chorus hook. The power is immense and Erik’s vocals are simply unbelievable. A tense verse builds to a huge chorus that just powers along. Simply glorious! Impossible to get out of your head afterwards.
Blood Enemies starts with a long slow bluesy guitar solo, the tension builds to an explosive burst of energy where the track goes full throttle, one of the heaviest Eclipse tracks yet. Once again Magnus shreds while Erik almost blows his voice with a scream. That aspect of the song is one of the album highlights, but then the awesome chorus takes it over the top. Once again, pure hard rock perfection.
Wide Open is simply one of the best songs Eclipse has ever written. Ever. It’s fricken glorious. I can’t get enough of it. A furious beat, a melodic verse, rampaging guitars and big vocals…and then that chorus. Wow. Wow. Wow.
 
Live Like I'm Dying is the album’s big ballad and what a monsterous slice of melodic moodiness this is. The slow burner builds from a restrained start, to a huge epic finish with big everything – guitars, vocals and beat. An epic power hard rock ballad. Great guitar solo! Perfection again!
The intro to Breakdown reminds me a little of Blue Murder’s brilliant Jelly Roll and the track has a certain bluesy groove. At first you think ‘oh, the chorus isn’t really there’, but then it appears and all is well with the world. Another powerful vocal and a left turn for the album in general, it provides a good change of pace.
The album returns to the script with the straight forward, double time rocker Love Bites. This is another Eclipse classic with a very melodic verse driven by a frantic beat and then a simple, but utterly infectious chorus. Killer song.
Caught Up In That Rush is another high energy, guitar heavy rocker with similar characteristics to the rest of the album – pounding rhythm, melodic, yet powerful vocals and a killer harmony filled chorus. These guys are just fecking brilliant.
One Life – My Life is somewhat less sonically bombastic, but equally as engaging. A moody verse and an angst filled heavier chorus. It’s melody and power all the way.
All Died Young closes the album, not with a ballad, but with one of the heaviest and fastest tracks of the album. Take no prisoners as the double kick drum goes into overdrive. A simple, but effective chorus and riffs galore!
 

At 42 minutes and 11 songs, this is the perfect length for an album packed with quality songs.
It begs to be played again once completed, leaving the listener wishing for more, but secretly happy that every track is a classic and at no point is there any let up in energy or quality.
Eclipse is one of several bands out of Sweden that just “get it”.
The American artists and others around the world need to sit up and pay attention to what is being done there, because albums like this are creating a legacy of music for fans that is close to unbeatable.
 
Stand up and take a bow guys. This is a classic album that demands to be purchased. It has been in high rotation (in fact, almost constant rotation) for me since early December and shows no sign of being swapped out any time soon.
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
22
Jan

H.E.A.T - Live In London (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
95%
Produced By: 
Heat
Running Time: 
67
Release Date: 
February 20
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
95
Label: 
Gain
Artist: 
 
Pausing to soak up the success of their two studio albums with vocalist Erik Gronwall, Sweden’s mega-talented H.E.A.T release a live show from their current tour, captured in London May 2014.
The English have adopted H.E.A.T as their own, interest building via several appearances at Firefest over the years.
So you have a hugely enthusiastic crowd, a band at the absolute peak of their live power, on tour in support of their utterly essential album Tearing Down The Walls, delivering a setlist of non-stop singalong anthems.
 
Add to that potent mix, one of the most energetic and dynamic frontmen in rock n roll today. Erik Gronwall is revelation. He’s a freak of nature, hitting every note required while commanding the stage and the audience with consummate ease.
This band is shit hot. There’s no doubt. On record, they are brilliant – on stage they are unstoppable. I’ve seen it first hand – there’s no overdubbing or trickery here – this is 67 minutes of melodic rock perfection, delivered with infectious energy and captured beautifully on this live recording.
 
The set list is mainly garnered from their two albums with Erik, throwing in just two older cuts here (and a third – Beg Beg Beg for Japan).
But that’s fine with me – I love all 4 albums, but it is the two with Erik that truly blow my mind and sum up everything I love about modern era melodic rock.
 

The setlist featured reignites the songs once again for those of us that have played them 1000 times already, on what is undoubtedly one of the best live albums of recent years.
Absolutely essential.
 
Categories: 
 
Thu
22
Jan

SWEET & LYNCH - Only To Rise (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
92%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
Produced By: 
Michael Sweet
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
January 23
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
 
You could spend a week discussing the musical heritage and history of Michael Sweet and George Lynch alone, but then there’s also bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Brian Tichy to consider. So in the interest of time, I’ll presume everyone reading this is well aware of the accomplishments of all these great folk. It’s actually almost unbelievable they are gathered on the one record.
 
Unlike some other cobbled together supergroups or all-star projects, when Michael Sweet was pitched this idea, he loved it so much he took over completely - asking to produce the album as well as co-writing the 12 tracks with guitarist Lynch.
And that’s what makes this album gel so well and why this works – the songs are all written in-house and therefore are a true representative mix of both artists’ attributes and influences.
It is a great mix of Sweet and Stryper’s recent melodic hard rock output with that classic Lynch Mob groove-n-sleaze.
 
The first 4 tracks are especially inspiring. The pump of The Wish and the groove and chorus of Like A Dying Rose, then the rock ballad Love Stays and the groovy free flowing Time Will Tell - all catchy tunes and all impressive representation of the talents involved.
Other highlights include the atmospheric slow burner Me Without You; the fast moving rock-n-groove of Recover; the moody September and the darker, rhythm driven Hero-Zero.
The album finishes with an old school melodic metal track Only To Rise.
 

A hard rocking album from start to finish, which I’m very impressed with. Production is well suited for the style of the music and most impressive of all is the fact all songs were co-written by Lynch and Sweet for this new partnership.
On the basis of the quality of what has been delivered here, fans enthusiastic reaction and plans to tour this mean this is one star project that looks set to go the distance.
One of my favourite releases from both main participants. 
Categories: 
 
Mon
22
Dec

AC/DC - Rock Or Bust (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
80%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
content: 
- Rock or Bust
- Play Ball
- Baptism by Fire
- Sweet Candy
- Emission Control
Produced By: 
Brendan O'Brien
Running Time: 
38
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
80
Label: 
Sony
Artist: 
Review: It’s an AC/DC record.
 
Ok, so I guess I should elaborate.
AC/DC shrugs off recent bad news (Malcolm Young) and bad press (Phil Rudd) to deliver another riff heavy volume of music to their incredible catalogue of tunes.
What hasn’t changed in decades is the band’s sound, style and lyrical naffness (can that be a word please?).
But that naffness is forgiven with the first riff of Angus’ guitar, which is as essential to rock n roll life as oxygen and electricity.
 
On Rock Or Bust we are faced with a very quick fire 11 track/35 minute blast of classic rock, with the screechy vocals of Brian Johnson taking us back in time once again.
Unfortunately we aren’t propelled far enough back in time to when Brian was in better voice, but I’ll still take it.
 
I’m not sure, but maybe the theme of this album is….er….”rock”? (Rock Or Bust, Rock The Blues Away, Got Some Rock N Roll Thunder, Rock The House).
Well….not unexpectedly, it does rock. The band sounds energized and while they’ll never touch the classic material of the 70s or the stadium anthems of the 80s, they can still deliver a good tune.
It’s a pretty solid album – it would want to be for only 35 minutes – there’s a few stand outs, but also a couple of tracks that really do plod along.
On the winners list are the first 4 tracks, which all rock along at a good pace, especially Play Ball and Rock The Blues Away.
Baptism Of Fire is a good bar room rock-n-boogie; Sweet Candy is cool and Emission Control is an old-school rocker.
Missing the mark for me are the tracks where the band just plods along a little too much - Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder and Hard Times in particular.
 

A decent album. You can’t expect too much more after all these years. The band can still deliver some old school songs and some memorable guitar riffs. They might be a bit rusty and predictable, but it ain’t noise pollution, so moderate thumbs up from me.

 

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