Reviews

Fri
12
Dec

BILLY IDOL - Kings & Queens Of The Underground (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
93%
section name: 
BEST TRACKS
content: 
Bitter Pill
Can't Break Me Down
One Breath Away
Postcards from the Past
Kings & Queens of the Underground
Produced By: 
Trevor Horn
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
BFI Records
Artist: 
Friday, December 12, 2014
Categories: 
There’s something very satisfying about a veteran artist that releases a new album and just nails it. The planets and stars have aligned for Billy Idol on the occasion of his 7th all-new studio album. Yes, just seven since his debut back in 1982, but on Kings And Queens Of The Underground, Billy takes fans back to the sound of Rebel Yell and Whiplash Smile with long time creative partner, guitarist Steve Stevens.
This is just such a refreshing album.
 
Looking back Billy’s best material was never about being heavy, it was more about the attitude and mixing technology with hard edged guitar driven rock n roll.
That’s exactly what he does perfectly here again. Some programming, drumbeats, synth and the ever present Stevens adding precision guitar riffs, shreds and fills throughout.
Choosing high-tech producer Trevor Horn was genius as he has helped Billy re-create his past without repeating himself or sounding dated.
I will say the album slows a bit in the second half and the inclusion of the throwaway punk rocker Whiskey And Pills to close the album is a waste, but otherwise this is pretty flawless.
 
Bitter Pill (co-written with Eric Bazilian) and the pop driven Can’t Break Me Down are two of Billy’s best tunes ever in my opinion, I simply can’t shake them from my head.
Save Me Now is another moody throwback to Whiplash Smile and One Breath Away is a modernized version of the classic Idol sound.
Postcards From The Past is 'Rebel Yell' for a new generation and the autobiographical Kings & Queens Of The Underground is a joy to listen to.
 
The trio of tracks Eyes Wide Shut, Ghosts In My Guitar and Nothing To Fear all slow the tempo of the album down and kills the energy a little, but the mood and delivery are still very appealing.
Love And Glory is another mid-paced track, but the chorus is the standout for the second half of the album, not to mention a great vocal from Billy.
 

This album is an absolutely great statement from Billy, who may never make another album like this again. But at least he has now and he and Stevens really capture the energy of the past while never once sounding like they are trying to produce a carbon copy.
Very satisfying for those Idol fans left sometimes frustrated by his releases.
Score: 
93
 
Fri
28
Nov

HAREM SCAREM - Thirteen (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
99%

 

Produced By: 
Harry Hess & Pete Lesperance
Running Time: 
38
Release Date: 
December 5
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 28, 2014
Categories: 
 
It’s no secret I’m a card carrying Harem Scarem fanboy and the band can do (almost) no wrong. Every album has featured at least a few legendary songs; most albums for me have been front to back brilliant. I even go against the traditionalists and rate Voice Of Reason very highly and the two Rubber albums remain underrated.
So this is the guy’s first studio album in 6 years, following on from the awesome Mood Swings 2 release. You might expect the guys to continue in the Mood Swings style, such as the 3 new tracks from MS2 did, but this is more simply Harem Scarem just being themselves.
Naturally gifted to deliver chorus upon chorus of memorable harmonies, riffs and hooks, Thirteen features elements of Weight Of The World, Higher, Overload and Hope.
It’s a continuation of the second half of the band’s career.
 
And while I rate every album highly – this is going to stand out as one of the band’s truly great records. This is right up there with the debut, Mood Swings, Weight Of The World and Higher for me.
10 songs, just under 40 minutes, no fuss, no padding ,no fillers, just pure melodic bliss from start to finish.
Production is great and the choruses really do seem to stand out even more than normal. It’s just one after another after another.
Anyone wanting to see how a catchy, memorable melodic rock album is done – learn from what Harem Scarem have done here. Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance are simply one of the finest writing pairs that have ever been part of the melodic rock scene.
 
Track By Track:
Garden of Eden is a perfect start to the album. A pop influenced melodic rocker, its only 45 seconds from start to the chorus and that is about the same for the whole album. Nothing but hooks and harmonies here. The chorus (as is usually the case for harem Scarem) is layered with harmonies and begs to be sung along to. A nice little progressive Mr. Big style guitar solo mid-song adds texture before diving right back into the chorus.
Live It turned my head initially. The outset of the song is quite different for the band and Harry’s verse vocal is certainly a refreshing burst of energy. The chorus is nothing but pure Harem anthemic goodness.
Early Warning Signs sees the sound turn darker and a little heavier, but still with that commercial feel that all Harem songs have. I’m hearing influences of the album Overload here, with a sharp twist for the bridge before a pure power pop chorus comes out of nowhere. The chorus has hints of Weight Of The World in it.
I adore The Midnight Hours. It starts with a moody slow verse and a melodic bridge before a massive layered, more urgent chorus delivers a devastatingly good hook.
Whatever It Takes is the only real slow paced ballad. This is a classic Harem Scarem ballad complete with nice guitar solo, heartfelt lyrics and of course, a monster harmony filled chorus.
Saints and Sinners is another track with a heavier Overload style feel. And it’s another absolute monster. The tracks moves at a decent pace with a moody verse rises to another catchy as hell chorus. Love it!
 
All I Need has some great guitar work from Pete underneath a song with a modern power pop heart, but with a classic old-school anthemic chorus. A great contrast once again between verse and chorus, which seems to be a highlight of this album’s song writing.
Troubled Times gives no indication of where it’s going from the start. It’s Weight Of The World and Higher meets Overload, slowly building through the verse and bridge to tempo lift and a chorus that may just never leave your head again. Ever. Classic.
Never Say Never is slower and once again pretty moody to start before yet another hook steers you into a mid-tempo harmony filled chorus. Simply put – just another great track.
Stardust is another stunning song to be honest. Featuring some great lyrics, it starts with a heavy feeling and a strong, tuned down guitar sound before lifting to a massive chorus with some terrific harmonies and a similar feel to the slower closing part of Change Comes Around from Mood Swings.
 
The Japanese release adds an acoustic version of The Midnight Hours, while the European version adds Garden Of Eden acoustic, which both work wonderfully in the stripped back format. A nice contrast to the electric versions.
 
The Japanese limited edition also adds a bonus disc featuring 8 tracks of the band live in 2013 in Japan. This is where the loyalty of the hard core fan is really stretched. I love the performance on these tracks – many Mood Swings classics in energetic form – but the quality isn’t much better than an audience recorded bootleg. Definitely for the die-hards only, but that’s me, so I’m good with it.
 

It took way too long to get here, but it was worth the wait. Simply put - another glorious album from the band that defines melodic rock for me. Superb songs, superb sound, superb performances.
Essential for all fans of this site and the music I promote.
So close to perfect I’m not sure why I’m not giving it 100!
Score: 
99
 
Fri
28
Nov

ALLEN/LANDE - The Great Divide (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Timo Tolkki / Mixed: Dennis Ward
Running Time: 
50
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Metal
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 28, 2014
Categories: 
 
A new Allen/Lande release without mastermind Magnus Karlsson involved? Not sure about that. Timo Tolkki to take over as chief architect? Definitely know how I feel about that.
I came into this release – the 4th overall – with very low expectations. After Timo’s recent twin Avalon releases, I expected a bad production and some bland songwriting.
But I was wrong and I’m happy to announce that.
While I don’t think the album has the same wall of sound that Karlsson delivered or the same intensity in the vocals, it is still pretty good.
 
Interestingly, 6 of the 10 tracks feature just the one vocalist. Jorn on 3 and Russell on 3. Just 4 of the songs feature both vocalists and that’s a weakness of the album and shows how well Karlsson worked with both singers on all songs and intertwined their vocals on the first 3 records.
 
Thankfully the production is far better than the Avalon releases, with Dennis Ward brought in to mix the end results.
Anything featuring Russell Allen and Jorn Lande in full attack mode is going to appeal, so I’m glad everyone involved got it right.
Timo is responsible for writing all songs – with Jorn co-writing several with him. Timo is also responsible for the guitars, bass and keyboards. So it’s an impressive performance here and I’ll now expect more from him.
 
After 3 pretty similar releases (which I all rate highly), perhaps it is nice to hear these class vocalists at it once again, but with a different sound behind them.
The strong opener Come Dream With Me and the belting impact of the fast moving Down From The Mountain (both tracks featuring duel vocals) and In The Hands Of Time (featuring Russell) get the album off to the best possible start, with both singers in full fight.
It’s not until the quality metal ballad Lady Of Winter (featuring Jorn alone) do things slow down a little.
Dream Until Tomorrow is a song featuring both singers belting it out and is followed by another duet in the intense Hymn For The Fallen.

Russell closes the album with a pair of songs – one highly quality rocker and the other a powerful metal ballad called Bittersweet.

 


As much as I like the results here, I still haven’t played the album as much as I did the first three. I think the sonic impact of Magnus Kalrsson is the obvious missing ingredient here, plus the lack of interplay between vocalists, but otherwise, Timo far exceeded my expectations and this is still an enjoyable melodic metal / hard rock album worth of the Allen/Lande name.

 

Score: 
84
 
Fri
28
Nov

VEGA - Stereo Messiah (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
94%
Produced By: 
John Mitchell & Vega
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 28, 2014
Categories: 
 
I really dig these guys. They are already 2 for 2 and now they drop a third collection of uptempo, anthemic melodic rock, delivered with an unmistakable energy, mixing the very best of classic 80s stadium rock with a distinctly modern twist.
Its band like Vega and the likes of Heat, Degreed and Work Of Art that are the future of moving this scene forward.
If it was still 1987, Stereo Messiah would be wall to wall hit singles from start to finish. Each track has its own mood, but each track has a bombastic chorus and layers of guitar, keyboards and vocals. It’s almost as if each song is in competition with the tracks either side of it, taking on a competitive persona, trying to outdo each other as the album progresses.
This is basically 52 minutes of anthems. And that could be about the only possible issue anyone could raise. There isn’t a lot of space on the album for the listener to take a breather. Its relentless harmonies and hooks from start to finish. That’s a tough situation to be in!
 
It’s a complex album, so I’m going track by track:
 
Title track Stereo Messiah kicks off this 52 minute ride with a tempo and mood that builds, with plenty of programming and vocal effects giving the song a modern edge.
All Or Nothing is simply a perfect, bombastic, pomptastic, rocking AOR anthem. Driving keyboards, big vocals and some classy guitar soloing all are driven along by a pounding beat.
Whenever We Are has the same melodic base and fast moving tempo, but features an even more massive vocal through the chorus with Nick Workman wailing away.
Ballad Of The Broken Hearted is actually anything but a ballad – it’s a fast moving, very moody and dark rocker with another big (but moody) chorus.
Gonna Need Some Love Tonight is less intense and once it gets through the mellow melodic verse, it bursts to life with another huge anthemic chorus.
The Fall is another slick, dark, modern, moody melodic rocker with an instantly likable vocal and yes, another big melodic, full force chorus.
Neon Heart is a fast moving melodic rocker with a dramatic, emotional heart.
With Both Hands is another one of the band’s classic hands in the air stadium anthems, with layers and layers of keyboards and vocals and a moody, harmony filled choruses.
10x Bigger Than Love was a Def Leppard Bonus Track from the X album for some territories and covered here by the lads with Joe Elliott guesting on backing vocals and lead during the verse. It’s a change of pace for the album, noticeably more lighthearted than the rest of the material. It stands out for that reason, but is still a fun track.
My Anarchy is similar to a couple of other tunes on the album – a driving beat, a moody, punchy chorus and great vocals.
The Wild, The Weird, The Wonderful is a less intense, upbeat melodic rocker with a strong catchy chorus.
Tears Never Dry is a 6 minute slow, very intense ballad to close the album. Another left turn from the album in general, but a classy bit of songwriting with a great high impact chorus.
 

Huge vocals, layers and layers of guitars, keyboards and vocals and a relentless pace of anthemic modern melodic rock. That’s what awaits fans on Stereo Messiah.
Different people are going to compare it to the other 2 albums in different ways, each one having good reason to be declared the band’s best effort. I can’t separate them; I just think they are all great.

 

Score: 
94
 
Fri
28
Nov

DALTON - Pit Stop (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
88%
Produced By: 
Erik Martensson
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock / AOR
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 28, 2014
Categories: 
 
What’s 25 years between friends? Swedish AOR legends return with an album that sounds like it was recorded as the natural follow up to 1989’s Injection album.
This is one for loyal Dalton fans who have waited all these years. Straight out of the Scandi 80s AOR playbook, Pit Stop is like a time capsule of glorious keyboards, fluffy AOR songs and big vocals.
Production is really impressive – what else would Erik Martensson deliver? The mix is beautiful and clear and gives keyboard, vocals and guitars the same 80s balance without sounding dated.
 
 
Ready Or Not might be a heavier album opener, but it’s the glorious hands in the air anthem Hey You that throws the listener back to 1985.
Don’t Tell Me Lies is keyboard heaven with a punchy mid-tempo rock ballad chorus with Follow Your Dreams equally as sentimental.
Up & Down fires up the guitars and the punchy rhythm section once again for a blast of high energy melodic rock, seamlessly followed by Bad Love.
One Voice is another slide of glorious 80s AOR with keyboards and vocals in full flight. Erik Martensson joins in the writing credits for this one.
Here We Are has to be one of the best AOR anthems of 2014. Melodic bliss here as vocals and harmonies and a rousing chorus all defy gravity.
Something For The Pain is equally as anthemic but a little more guitar driven and a faster tempo.
TGIF is a rousing, jazzy, rocked up closer.
 

Some albums have that 80s feel, updated with a contemporary production; this album sounds as if it was written and recorded in the late 80s. And that’s a positive comment. It’s a real throw back to where the band left off and an album to be enjoyed by fans of the pure 80s Scandi-AOR sound.
Score: 
88
 
Tue
25
Nov

DENNIS DEYOUNG & The Music Of Styx - Live In Los Angeles (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
90%
Produced By: 
Dennis DeYoung
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Categories: 
 
Dennis De Young heads to the Westcoast for a rare live appearance and while he was there, he filmed this event for a 2CD/DVD release. It’s raining live releases right now, and Dennis is the cream of the crop.
Singing the hits of Styx with a dynamic 6 piece band accompanying him, Dennis happily plays away on his famous piano, those iconic lead vocals pure ear candy.
 
The songs are of course, long since proven as classics, with the audience familiar with every word, every line.
Highlights? Well, all of it of course.  Dennis sounds amazing; his backing band is fabulous and the material is unquestionable.
 
It could be seen as a little unusual for the Tommy Shaw sung classics to be included in the set, featuring August Zadra on lead vocals for those. But I guess when presenting an evening of ‘The Music Of Styx’, you include all of Styx. I think that’s a credit to DeYoung’s overview of the legacy of the band. He's not just delivering the songs he wrote and sung himself.
 
In the end, this is a highly enjoyable romp through the best of Styx over an hour or two, with flawless performances and the biting wit of DeYoung in-between those songs. The guy really could try a career in stand-up.
 

Beautifully recorded and filmed, this is a very high quality live release that I recommend to all.
Score: 
90
 
Tue
25
Nov

STRYPER - Live At The Whisky (Review)

Produced By: 
Stryper
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Categories: 
 
Yet another live CD/DVD release on the market here, with Stryper the next cab off the rank.
The 16-track collection documents the band’s first show in support of No More Hell To Pay, the band’s most recent (and well received) release.
The show is set in the intimate setting of LA’s famous Whiskey club, meaning the crowd, the stage, the cameras and the amps are all packed in. There’s not much room to move up there on stage, but the band lets the music do the talking.
 
The audio capture is ok – not the best I have ever heard, but far from the worst also. At least the band is truly live up there and not relying on overdubs.
 
Material comes from across the band’s catalogue and the new album, plus that blazing cover of Jesus Is Just Alright complete with some tasteful shredding by Michael Sweet – the guy is an underrated guitarist!
The DVD of Live At The Whisky also contains the music video for “No More Hell To Pay” and “Sympathy” from their latest album No More Hell To Pay plus an interview segment.
 
 

A disc and a DVD for a fair price is good value for fans and I have no doubt most Stryper fans will have already run out and scored a copy of this. If not – it’s a safe bet folks.

 

Score: 
86
 
Tue
25
Nov

HEART & FRIENDS - Home For The Holidays (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
50%
Produced By: 
Heart
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Christmas; Live
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Categories: 
 
Ah, tis the season for live cash-ins, tralalalala….
Ok, so let’s just state the unchallengeable facts right up front – Nancy Wilson is an amazing guitarist, Ann Wilson has the voice of an angel, untouched by the years and Heart have recorded some truly iconic music over the years. Most of which I love!
They really are a force to be reckoned with and credit to them for still kicking in 2014.
 
But, to be frank, there isn’t a number low enough to rate my interest in a Heart Christmas release. Even one with “friends”…
 
After their last couple of albums have failed to interest me, this is like a nail through the head.
So if I haven’t offended those last remaining Heart fans out there enough, I will go on and state that the festive songs included here are dreadfully dull unless you are really in the mood for a mellow early Christmas celebration.
 
This ultra-laid back event can’t even be rescued by the normally reliable Richard Marx or the always likeable Sammy Hagar. Hagar’s Santa's Going South is hokey hillbilly at its worst.
What I can say positively about this release is that it is beautifully filmed and recorded – the audio and video are exquisitely captured, it sounds and looks a million bucks. Just a shame about the songs.
 

Not sure who to recommend this too. No doubt it will sell more than most cult releases I review on here, but that thought just makes me sad.
The score is more reflective of a need to recognize the audio and visual quality of the release rather than the actual content.
Score: 
50
 
Tue
25
Nov

SAMMY HAGAR - Lite Roast (Review)

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content: 

 

33%
Produced By: 
Sammy Hagar & Vic Johnson
Running Time: 
39
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Acoustic
Label: 
Independent
Artist: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Categories: 
 
Sammy Hagar remains one of my favourite songwriters and vocalists, but he is really beginning to test my patience with his solo releases.
The Jimmy Buffet of rock has followed up a dreadful duets album, which itself was preceded by an atrocious bits-and-pieces release Cosmic Universal Fashion, with a fully acoustic ‘best of’ featuring some solo tunes and some reworked Van Hagar cuts.
As was the case with the last two albums, I’m again not sure who this is aimed at. Die-hards only I would suggest, as the production and performance within seems pretty rushed.
 
 
Some of the tracks translate to acoustic very well and have a semblance of quality to them – such as Finish What Ya Started and Eagles Fly.
Other tracks just grate on my ears – Red Voodoo, One Sip; and Sailin’ and Halfway To Memphis are just too hokey in this setting and Van Halen’s Dreams just sounds horrible.
 
I have nothing but praise for Sammy in Van Halen, Chickenfoot and his earlier solo material. But post 2000 his efforts have been very hit and miss.
 

This is obviously a quickly assembled, quickly produced fill-in release, but it marks another miss for the Red (used to be a…) Rocker.
Score: 
33
 
Fri
21
Nov

TEN - Albion (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
93%

 

Produced By: 
Gary Hughes
Running Time: 
55
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
UK
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Rocktopia Records
Artist: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Categories: 
 
Ten get a lot of shit thrown at them for just being Ten. It’s not justified, as their track record for delivering is just as impressive as any other bands out there. I’ve been a fan of these guys since their 1996 debut.
Even the less acclaimed The Twilight Chronicles (2006) and Stormwarning (2011) held up ok in my mind. It’s only with Gary Hughes’ re-recording of the band’s earlier material The Essential Collection that I had to call them out for unacceptable quality.
There are enough studio albums now that everyone has their favourite era and style that Gary Hughes has taken on, but it seems without question the most popular is the early years.
 
 
And that is why Albion is so rewarding. Gary manages to do something many artists aspire to, but fall short with. He’s taken the band back to the sound of their most melodic and most powerful albums. The self-titled debut, Name Of The Rose, Spellbound and Babylon are probably the band’s best records and all are represented here.
 
If the melodic rock of Alone In The Dark Tonight represents the debut, then the heavier Battlefield takes on The Name Of The Rose.
It's Alive is classic Ten with a modern twist and the heavy bombastic Celtic pomp of Albion Born is pure Gary Hughes brilliance.
The rock ballad Sometimes Love Takes The Long Way Home is once again classic Ten doing everything they do best. A track Whitesnake would be proud to call their own.
A Smuggler's Tale is the heavier side of the band’s sound, while the 7 and a half minute Die For Me is heavy again, but pretty commercial with a catchy chorus.
It Ends This Day concludes a trio of heavier songs.
The moody piano ballad Gioco D'Amore is sung in English and Italian and is something very special. Once again, a classic Ten ballad.
The 6 minute Wild Horses builds from a gentle start to a pomp friendly, hard rocking finish.
 

Can’t find fault with this album. A terrific return to the sound of the early (and best) years and a step up in songwriting quality over the last few albums.
Fans of British melodic hard rock and the pomp and grandiose arrangements Gary Hughes is famous for are going to love this. A perfect step into the past without moving backwards.
Score: 
93
 
Fri
21
Nov

WHITESNAKE - Live In '84 - Back To The Bone (Review)

information persons: 
content: 
68%

 

Produced By: 
David Coverdale & Michael McIntyre
Running Time: 
70
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Categories: 
 
The world does not need another Whitesnake live album. I love the band and I don’t need one either. But if we HAVE to have one, then I guess, this is a pretty cool addition to the collections of diehard Snake fans.
 
 
The 1984 recorded show is featured on CD as well as DVD. The visual aspect of this release for me is far more appealing as you get to witness a tight 4-piece band in prime form, with the legendary Cozy Powell, John Sykes and Neil Murray delivering a hits-packed set including the classics Crying In the Rain, Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City, Slow & Easy, Soldier Of Fortune and Guilty Of Love.
 
Then you can add a 4 track addendum featuring Jon Lord’s last performance with the band and the songs Gambler, Guilty of Love, Love Ain't No Stranger and ​Ready an' Willing.
 

Audio wise the sound is a bit dated and really not the kind of quality you’d normally like to put out as an official live album. It is too muddy for a crisp HD release in the year 2014, but like I said, the visual aspect of the package make up a little.
 
Still, this is an archival diehards only release.
Score: 
68
 
Fri
21
Nov

IN FAITH - There's A Storm Coming (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

90%
Produced By: 
Pete Newdeck & Tony Marshall
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
UK
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Rocktopia Records
Artist: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Categories: 
 
Now where did these guys come from? Dropping without a lot of warning comes the debut album from new UK outfit In Faith – featuring the talents of vocalist Pete Godfrey and guitarist Tony Marshall along with drummer Pete Newdeck.
The debut was recorded over the space of a year and was just released via Rocktopia Records.
This is an impressive slice of classic British AOR, following in the traditions of Dare, Ten and Newman.
 
 
It has a distinct 80s feel, without being dated and delivers a mix of feel good rockers, heartfelt ballads and those all-important AOR anthems.
The first thing I thought when listening to this album is that it sounded like a lost Harem Scarem album. Pete Godfrey has a huge vocal resemblance to Harry Hess and what I’m hearing here is an album that I think would fit perfectly between the debut Harem Scarem album and the classic follow-up Mood Swings.
In the same way as the debut Harem album saw a band finding their direction and musical path, so too are In Faith finding theirs and I can only imagine that their second album will be something potentially out of this world.
 
But back in the present, there is already something very special right here.
There are some straight forward melodic rockers in the form of the opener Radio and Church Of Rock N Roll, plus All Or Nothing and In Flames.
There are a couple of outstanding ballads with the heartbreaking Where I Want To Be leading the pack and the stripped back Leave Me Now.
Then there’s those anthems! Does It Feel Like Love is a hit single in another decade; Addicted is Harem Scarem at their old-school best and If That What Love Means is right up there for Song Of The Year – just perfect melodic goodness.
 

If you like your British melodic rock, have a soft spot for the Harem Scarem debut and like your music to represent a bygone era, then In Faith have delivered a very impressive debut that should be right up there on end of year best of lists. Can’t wait for more!
Score: 
90
 
Fri
21
Nov

RATED X - "Rated X" (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

89%
Produced By: 
Alessandro Del Vecchio
Running Time: 
60
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Categories: 
 
Any project featuring Joe Lynn Turner on vocals is going to get my attention. Add in Joe’s Mother’s Army partner Carmine Appice on drums; Carmine’s Blue Murder partner Tony Franklin on bass and star guitarist Karl Cochran and you have me standing to attention, ready to salute whoever’s idea this was.
But, what looks good on paper must deliver in reality. Rated X thankfully does just that. Under the direction of producer Alessandro Del Vecchio (who also adds writing credits, all keyboards, organ and backing vocals to his list of credits), the band delivers a knock out blues driven classic hard rock album.
 
 
Not unexpectedly, the style here is a mix of Joe Lynn Turner solo, classic Rainbow as well as adding parts of the Mother’s Army and Blue Murder sound.
The band overcame Karl’s recent health scare by bringing in Nikolo Koyzev and Daniel Palmqvist to complete guitar parts on several tracks, but Karl remains the driving force behind the album’s power.
 
It’s a joy to hear Appice and Franklin as a rhythm section again. The two really pack a punch on this record, with Tony’s bass groove rolling through the album and Carmine is simply all over these songs. Why add one drum fill when you can add three? I love it; the powerful rhythm section just adds so much power. And Joe Lynn Turner has seldom sounded better, his authorative rasp in full control.
 
Get Back My Crown is a ripping opener that throws me back to the debut Mother’s Army album.
This Is Who I Am is one of two tracks taken from the unreleased JLT/Chris Antblad collaboration. The song here is beefed up from its original form, with some shredding guitar and a ton of extra drum fills.
Fire And Ice is an organ drenched classic Zeppelinesque 70s rocker with drums again belting through the speakers through the chorus while Tony Franklin’s bass glides over the verse.
I Don’t Cry Anymore is another great JLT driven rocker, with the singer sounding in classic form.
The very cool and moody Lhasa has to be inspired by the Blue Murder track Valley Of The Kings. This seven minute epic has a very similar vibe, especially with Franklin and Appice involved.
Devil In Disguise is a pretty simple rocker after the complex preceding track.
You Are The Music is a quality slower track with a nice melodic edge.
Peace Of Mind is another quality untempo melodic rocker.
Maybe Tonight is a classic AOR track – the second from the JLT/Antblad sessions. Here it has been rocked up a little and expanded musically and is another highlight.
On The Way To Paradise picks up the tempo and the rock attitude once again for a straight ahead tour de force. Great guitar solo too!
Our Love Is Not Over is the big sentimental ballad of the album. Classic JLT here.
Stranger In Us All closes the album by firing us up again with crashing guitars and pounding bass and lots of organ once again.
 

 
A very fine debut collaboration from the folks that form Rated X. I hope this can continue as an ongoing touring and recording band.
The only point I would raise overall would be that the production could be described as a bit muddy in places and the drum and bass sound does vary a little from track to track.
But great energy in the performances, despite the challenges of getting the record recorded and mixed.
You wouldn’t want the album any longer than the 60 minutes delivered, but that said, there’s no filler here.

 

Score: 
89
 
Wed
19
Nov

ADRIANGALE - 'Defiance' (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

93%
Produced By: 
Vic Rivera
Running Time: 
38
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Kivel Records
Artist: 
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Categories: 
 
Adriangale are another band back in quick time with another new studio opus after firing back to life in 2013.
Defiance is a fitting title for a band that has overcome the odds and continues to deliver.
There’s nothing better than a band that learns and keeps getting better and better with each album. And as enjoyable as each album from these guys has been, they have continued to get better and I’m pleased to say that Defiance is in my eyes, their best and most accomplished album to date. I’m being tougher with scores since the new site launch, so the 93% here is truly well deserved.
 
 
Taking the best anthemic AOR qualities of their past and toughening up the sound a little, upping the production value and delivering a crystal clear mix is what this album is all about.
Jamie Rowe sounds as comfortable singing here as I have ever heard him and the quality of Vic Rivera’s guitar playing on this album is world class.
I’ve always told him he needs to continue showing the world what he can do, as far back as his blazing work on the Rick Springfield tribute cover of Souls.
 
There’s not a weak or filler track on this album. Just 10 really enjoyable songs. No padding – just straight to the point.
 
The opening (and title) track Defiance sets up this album beautifully. Darker, a little heavier and a killer moody chorus.
Back To You is similar – a brooding moody verse that leads to an anthemic layered chorus. Love it. Adriangale at their best.
What About Love is a gritty guitar fueled rocker with lots of vocal harmonies once again.
Sometimes has a heavier than usual guitar riff which I love, added to with a blindingly good anthemic chorus.
The only big ballad of the album is the perfect moody Last Of My Heart. It has a great sentimental feel and lots of harmonies.
The closing track demonstrates that if Billy Idol is ever looking for someone to stand in for him, he should give Jamie Rowe a call and Vic Rivera can stand in for Steve Stevens.
Speed replicates the original Idol tune in pretty faithful fashion. It’s a cool addition to the original material.
 

Another album, another winner. Arguably the band’s best effort yet – at least in my eyes. There is no doubt that all fans of melodic rock should find something very tasty about this album, the songs and the layers within.
Score: 
93
 
Wed
19
Nov

TANGO DOWN - 'Charming Devil' (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 
87%
Produced By: 
Ty Sims
Running Time: 
40
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Kivel Records
Artist: 
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Categories: 
 
US rockers Tango Down follow up their acclaimed ass-kicking Identity Crisis record in quick fashion with the new album Charming Devil, featuring the same lineup, fronted by vocalist David Reece and riff man Scott Miller.
It’s a case of more of the same from the band here – ass kicking, high energy, American melodic hard rock, with harmonies throughout and plenty of riffing for the guitar-heads out there.
 
 
David Reece sounds in great voice here – it’s another polished performance from the veteran vocalist.
Plenty of highlights here with songs penned mostly by friend to the Kivel label, Jace Pawlak, either writing on his own or with guitarist Miller. Production is by Ty Sims, and one can hear the Bombay Black style harmonies throughout the album, with the band’s frontman Erik Johnson lending a hand there.
I will say though, the one detrimental aspect of the album is the bass heavy mix. Overall it’s bearable, but there are a couple of songs where it is truly overbearing and not easy on the ears to listen to without adjusting audio settings.
 
Song highlights include the opening track Bad Reputation, a solid, attitude filled track to push off in style.
The title track Charming Devil is a cool rocker, but the pounding bass heavy mix really takes away from my enjoyment of it.
Too Many Roads is one of the best rock power ballads of this or any year. Reece sounds amazing and the added piano adds texture to the already impressive song. The huge chorus knocks it out of the park.
Change My World is another catchy tune while the ultra-catchy, anthemic Tomorrow Never Comes is as impressive as it gets on Charming Devil.
Closing the album is the second ballad of the album, even if it’s sentimental with a kick. Another classy tune.
 

I favor Identity Crisis over this new album, but songwise it’s a very close call. Both albums feature some real gems and fully deliver on expectations. But the mix here has definitely impacted on my overall enjoyment of it.
American melodic hard rock is alive and well with Tango Down and long may it continue.
Score: 
87
 
Fri
31
Oct

MR. BIG - The Stories We Could Tell (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
- Gotta Love The Ride
- I Forget To Breathe
- Fragile
- Satisfied
- The Man Who Has Everything
- The Monster In Me
- What If We Were New
- East / West
- The Light Of Day
- Just Let Your Heart Decide
- It's Always About That Girl
- Cinderella Smile
- The Stories We Could Tell
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

94%
Produced By: 
Pat Regan
Running Time: 
61
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Friday, October 31, 2014
Categories: 
 
It is an emotional time for Mr. Big as drummer Pat Torpey recently announced he was dealing with the onset of Parkinson’s disease as the band regrouped for their second post-reformation studio album.
But they managed to do it, adding another chapter to the Mr. Big story, and delivering a different beast to the last album What If…
 
There’s a different vibe to this album, most likely down to the change of producer, from Kevin Shirley (who likes recording live in the studio) to Pat Regan, who takes the more traditional route.
A couple of interesting facts from the recording sessions explain the vibe of this album – one was that the guys were all individually busy, so many parts were recorded without the others present as schedules permitted time to record, and the other was the revelation from Billy Sheehan that drummer Pat doesn’t actually play live drums on the album. Instead, the two Pat’s worked together on programming drum parts to match Torpey’s style and energy.
In fact, that part of the process held up the release of the album, forcing a slight reschedule and some last minute deliveries of the master.
But I’m impressed with the job done here. Both from Pat Regan for the overall sharp, traditional Mr. Big style production (he also worked with the guys on ‘Get Over It’ and the side project ‘Influences & Connections’); and also from Pat Torpey, who delivers perhaps the best programmed drums ever.
Eric Martin sounds fabulous as always as does Paul Gilbert with his flawless master class of riffing and soloing that continues throughout.
I don’t think Billy Sheehan’s bass is as prominent in the mix as last time around. The technical flair and authority is there, just not as promiinent in the mix as on What If.
 
The hour long album touches on a few aspects of the band’s sound and career to date. There’s definitely some of the bluesy ‘Get Over It’ influences here, despite that album not featuring guitarist Paul Gilbert; there is also some touches of the debut from way back in ’89 as well as Bump Ahead and of course the most recent release What If.
There is also a strong influence of 70s rock n roll throughout, a loose bluesy vibe that blends into the band’s sound.
All in all, it’s Mr. Big and its good!
 
I think the album runs a little long as there’s a couple of tracks in the back half of the album that more or less repeat what’s come before, if the album had been cut to 11 tracks it might have been a little more concise.
 
Gotta Love The Ride is a bombastic bluesy rocker. A solid groove, nice guitar solo and a chorus that seems restrained but gets better each listen. A cool track!
I Forget To Breathe is another up-tempo blues based rocker with a big groove. Billy's bass not nearly as prominent in mix as last album. Another pretty simple chorus....but it rocks and I like it. I'm hearing some 'Get Over It' here. Great guitar solo.
The wonderfully melodic Fragile was my pick of the album from day 1 and continues to be. A real Mr. Big sounding track with the same type of vibe as the equally brilliant "Undertow".
Satisfied took some time to grow on me. Back to the 70s blues rock again and I'm a 80s guy, so I wasn’t sure, but it has grown into a fine track. A very melodic vocal bridge that hints at a big chorus that doesn't arrive.
Its ballad time. The Man Who Has Everything is a familiar Mr. Big acoustic driven ballad. Still carrying that 70s feel though. Big soulful vocal by Eric Martin - another possible single here I'd expect. Some orchestral backing makes it fuller in sound.
The Monster In Me still has that bluesy 70s sound going through it. The mid-tempo, heavy rocker was another track that grew on me and it’s jerky, abrupt chorus is cool.
What If I Were New sees the band is sounding like The Rolling Stones. A different vibe for sure and perhaps one of the lesser quality tracks on the album. Interesting chorus. I wouldn't call it catchy, but it's original and the choppy Paul Gilbert guitar work is cool.
East/West features acoustic intro and first 30 seconds before band comes to life. Acoustic base, but electric also. A feel good song this and a traditional Mr. Big commercial pop/rocker.
The Light Of Day is a fast rocker with a big groove, big guitars and bass, fast moving vocal and chorus, with Eric in fine voice as ever.
Just Let Your Heart Decide - ballad time again. Deep sultry vocal from Eric and an extremely good chorus. Just like 'What If', the second big ballad on the album is the better one. No Mr. Big fan is going to dislike this one.
It's Always About That Girl - this is another mi-tempo 70s groover. Not as into this as earlier tracks and sees the band repeating themselves a little here.
As is the case with the slow/mid-tempo groove based track Cinderella Smile. Simple chorus, stop/start slow groove and a track that brings a slow tempo to the closing part of the album.
The Stories We Could Tell is unfortunately another slow-mid-tempo 70s groover.
Interesting track, but not the most instant or catchy tune out there and similar to a couple of others on the album. A good chorus, some nice bass fills from Billy and more classy playing from Paul. But three slowish 70s groove tracks in a row to close the album is too many.
I would have cut Cinderella Smile and It’s Always About That Girl.
 
For the European release there is the bonus track Addicted To That Rush (Live)Now, being the musical snob I am, I just can’t endorse live tracks tacked onto the end of studio albums. It just doesn’t sit right with me that an all-new studio album closes with an old live track.
Add to that the fact the quality of this live track is horrible. The instrumentation is clear enough, but the vocals sound as if they were piped in from the lavatory backstage. Very hollow and low in volume. It’s a real shame as the sheer energy of Pat Torpey and world class guitar soloing from Paul and Billy throughout is otherwise stunning.
The Japanese release adds the bonus track 30 Days In The Hole (Live). Again, the playing is nothing short of exquisite, but next to studio material it just doesn’t sound right or match the production values.
 
The Japanese Special Edition sees the band add a bonus disc of 10 re-recorded classics. The Japanese are becoming increasingly generous with their extra features to entice a shrinking market into buying and it worked for me!
The tracks covered include the fan favorites Addicted To That Rush, Colorado Bulldog, Daddy Brother Lover Little Boy, Green Tinted Sixties Mind and Take Cover.
There’s not a dramatic overhaul of these tracks in any way. More or less, they are just an updated sound, consistent with the production of the new material and the odd tweak here and there with vocals, backing vocals and guitar and bass riffs. Long time Mr. Big fans will hear the differences, casual fans won’t. But it’s well worth getting.
 
The Stories We Could Tell is a big, groovy, rocking album, but not the chorus heavy style of Mr. Big's most commercial tracks.
It is also not an instant album, but it has the same Mr. Big appeal as always for me and has been on high rotation now for many weeks. I’m still loving the tracks I love and still not warming to the last few.
The guys’ individual performances are as special as we always expect from these phenomenal musicians.
Be prepared for a different sound and a more retro groove based style.
 
Another great Mr. Big album, but it's going to have to appeal to people's individual tastes a little more than past albums.
Score: 
94
 
Fri
31
Oct

220 VOLT - Walking In Starlight (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

75%
Produced By: 
22o Volt
Running Time: 
60
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Friday, October 31, 2014
Categories: 
 
Sweden delivers yet another rock band in the form of 220 Volt. But these guys aren’t new – they’re back from the 80s, with their first proper studio album since 1997.
It doesn’t happen often, but this is one band that skipped past me in the heyday, so more or less, despite reported changes to their sound, I’m taking them on as a new listener.
Anders Engberg (ex-Therion ex-Lions Share), who joined this group on late 2012, is the new voice of the band, so with a fresh voice it really is a new start for the band.
Founding members Thomas Drevin and Mats Karlsson handle the guitars and drummer Peter Hermansson complete the line-up.
 
What I’m hearing is pretty typical Scandi-styled melodic hard rock. I’ve spun it several times and I’m liking the vocals, which sound a little like the great Matti Alfonzetti or Goran Edman, but otherwise I’m struggling with the songs somewhat.
 
Production is ok, it’s not a sharp or as crisp as it should be and compared to some other recent releases. The drum and cymbal sound in particular is weak.
Coupled with some songs that don’t quite do it for me and a sound I’ve heard before, I rate this as a decent release that fans of the band should enjoy, but I’m not seeing huge crossover potential.
This is a pretty hard rocking release though. There are times where the band takes it up a notch and that’s when I think they sound at their best – tracks like Alive, Through The Wastelands and System Overload.
Plus the more melodic Take A Good Look and Stranded.
 
Overall, not bad, but not a stand out for me in this always crowded market. I expect longtime fans will enjoy and newcomers to the European hard rock scene might also find something worthy here.
 
Score: 
75
 
Fri
31
Oct

MISS BEHAVIOUR - Double Agent (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

88%
Produced By: 
Daniel Gese & Miss Behaviour
Running Time: 
49
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Friday, October 31, 2014
Categories: 
 
It’s great to hear an established band just getting it right and delivering what they are best at. Even better when the songs and the production continue to increase in quality as is the case with the new Miss Behaviour album.
Double Agent is the band’s 3rd album and sees them going from strength to strength. Of the three releases, this is probably their first that demands to be bought on the strength of the songs.
That’s a good thing…there’s still a couple of tunes here I’m not sold on, but on the flip side, there are a few songs that having heard, I now just can’t live without.
 
The Swedish AOR/melodic rock outfit delivers a slightly quirky slice of 80s AOR mixed with some glam and melodic rock. It’s a pretty diverse selection of songs.
 
On With The Show is a strong melodic rock opening track. Makes a strong statement for the album ahead. But Double Agent is pure synth/AOR magic. A moody verse and a killer chorus…perfection!
Then you have some strong 80s melodic rock with Cold Response, Midnight Runner and a big anthemic ballad with Corporation Arms. Another of the band’s best tracks to date.
The band delivers their quirky side on the rocker Love Reflector before turning hard rock for the moody, heavy Edge Of The World.
Then it’s a 180 degree switch to another slice of AOR perfection with the brilliant Don't Let It End.
The melodic rocker The Cause Of Liberty runs nearly 8 minutes and takes a few listens to click, but it works.
I’m not feeling the love as much for Magical Feeling or Dancing With Danger, but the ballad Silver Rain is good value.
 
Once again I point out positive growth from an artist, meaning their best is hopefully still to come.
A few wonderful AOR tracks here and some quirky side-steps to prevent repetition and help continue their own style.
A quality record that should be examined by the majority of fans of the European AOR/melodic rock genre.
 
Score: 
88
 
Fri
31
Oct

DEAD END HEROES - Road Kill (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

84%
Produced By: 
Dead End Heroes
Running Time: 
57
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Friday, October 31, 2014
Categories: 
 
Dead End Heroes features a couple of very busy guys – vocalist Carsten Lizard Schulz and bassist Paul Logue. Producer and guitarist Rolf Munkes is a busy lad too, so it's cool to see these guys on a project together.
The very impressive and loud rhythm section also features drummer Daniel Voegeli.
Holger Seeger adds some classic Hammond Organ for that old school hard rock sound.
Without trying to over simplify the songwriting involved here – this is a very straight ahead hard rocking album.
The performances are quite electric – there's clearly a lot of effort put into capturing the guys at their collective best here, best evidenced by the cage rattling hard rocker the band takes their name from.
 
This is a very consistent sounding album – it's one track after another of European blend hard hitting classic melodic metal/hard rock.
I'm not into the lead track Roadkill that much, but the heavy Blue Murder/organ drenched style Cry For The Moon is all class as is the bold epic 7 minute metaller Stormfront.
Hands Off The Wheel rocks along at a good pace and the song And The Loser Is, is as catchy as anything on the album.
The Fire's Worth The Loneliness is another stand out.
 
There's a certain sameness to some songs, but the big winners here are fans of in your face hard rock with guitars thrust firmly to the front of the mix.
I can hear some Eden's Curse in the rhythm and the harmony vocals, but also latter day Jaded Heart.
A quality release for fans of European hard rock. Maybe a touch too long at nearly an hour in length.
Score: 
84
 
Fri
31
Oct

GRAND DESIGN - Thrill Of The Night (Review)

information persons: 
Produced By: 
Grand Design
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Friday, October 31, 2014
Categories: 
 
Simply put, the Grand Design guys have taken everything good about their first two albums and made it better. The new lineup, which includes the energized licks of Janne Stark and the pounding drums of Magnus Ulfstedt has made the band ever more powerful and the production here is the band’s best yet.
Long time bassist Mats Vassfjord joins Ulfstedt in creating a monster rhythm section and Stark’s guitar really does propel these songs into a new league.
Frontman Pelle Saether sounds as strong as ever – as long as you have a penchant for his unique vocal style.
 
The guys still trade off that classic Def Leppard sound – a mix of Pyromania, High & Dry and Adrenalize, but what I like about Thrill Of The Night is that these songs stand out on their own merits, rather than directly copying Leppard songs as the last album tended to do.
 
The fast rolling and spirited opener U Got Me Good is as catchy as anything the band has recorded previously as is the fun groove of the anthemic Rawk N Roll Heart Attack.
The Rush Is Gone captures the mood of the darker Pyromania moments, while 10 Out Of 10 is a pounding rhythm tour-de-force.
When The Greatest Love Of All Kicks In is a quality sentimental ballad layered in harmonies and guitars, plus a tasty solo mid-track.
Rip Iddup is a silly title, but a fun, groove driven hard rocker not to be taken too seriously.
Get Up N Love Someone is a more free flowing anthemic rock and You're The Only One is Grand Design’s answer to Leppard’s ‘Animal’. A great mid-tempo melodic rocker.
Who's Gonna Rawk You Tonite is yet another quality chorus attached to another quality melodic rocker with a lot of layers to dig through.
Closing the album is the moody, hard rocking, fast moving Thrill Of The Nite.
 
I respect bands that get better with experience. There’s a few of them around and Grand Design have so far proved to be one. This is easily their best produced and performed record and the songs, while ever familiar, are starting to branch out into the band’s own personality.
Score: 
92
 
Fri
19
Sep

WORK OF ART - Framework (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

99%
Produced By: 
Work Of Art
Running Time: 
46
Release Date: 
September 19
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR / Melodic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Artist: 
Friday, September 19, 2014
Categories: 
 
Track after track after track of simply glorious classic AOR that is written and recorded so perfectly that the album sounds timeless. It could have been released as easily in 1987 as it is today.
 
Like many others following this scene, Work Of Art are part of the new era of classic melodic rock artists. They deliver the best of yesterday, wrapped up in the production and songwriting values of today.
Their first two albums were both wonderful, but I can’t help but feel that they have truly found their own unique groove here.
Yes, the band’s sound is familiar and comparisons to Toto and others can safely be made. But the guys continue to walk their own path.
Framework is, I think, their most accomplished work to date and their most unique.
This album sees the guys turn up the guitars a little and mix the keyboards a little less prominently – but don’t fear – there are several layers of keys in each and every track. That sound is still fundamental to the band’s texture.
 
The album is also a more uptempo and fast moving affair. It rocks along at a positively cracking pace at times, but all the while still remaining 100% AOR.
Drummer Hermin Furin is the backbone of a stronger sound here, with Robert Sall delivering his best guitar work to date and dare I say it, the most fluent keyboards also.
Vocalist Lars Safsund is in immaculate voice. His tone and style is what I describe as the perfect AOR voice.
 
The opening track is quite simply AOR gold. Time To Let Go is joyous, catchy as hell, uplifting and a lessen to all in songwriting 101.
How Will I Know continues the fast pace and delivers more glorious hooks and melodies. AOR perfection.
The harder hitting and darker Shout Till You Wake Up is where the band shows their growth as a unit. The song features a nice progressive, moody style that suits them so well. Another killer chorus and keyboards everywhere adds to the delight.
And the mid-late song passage of Toto-esque prog/pop is pure brilliance.  
Can't Let Go sees the band delivering another glorious AOR anthem, much akin to the sound of the debut, but with more guitars. Impossibly catchy and fast moving.
 
Next up are two harder hitting guitar tracks, both sending out messages to a couple of people I’m glad I’m not! How Do You Sleep At Night is yet another fast flowing, highly addictive AOR anthem with an angry heart. I don’t know how these guys do it. Awesome.
Over The Line calls out someone for their lies and bullshit, yet in a supremely catchy, anthemic, classic AOR way. How could you ask for more? The song’s chorus is just so instant.
 
The Machine sees the guys crank the guitars up one notch further – this is almost a W.E.T style rocker to start, but the big keyboard presence makes it classic Work Of Art. Yet another catchy chorus and fast moving AOR gem.
Hold On To Love is the first point of the album where things seemingly take a breather. Good thing too! This is a happy go lucky breezy Westcoast style song showing the band’s lighter side.
Time for a big sentimental ballad? The opening passage says yes, but then bang! We’re away with another high tempo melodic rocker. And unbelievably, Natalie is yet another killer tune with another big anthemic chorus.
The Turning Point continues the frantic pace, even after the Toto-esque intro.
My Waking Dream closes the album on a lighter note. This is a dreamy, moody ballad with a lot of vocal layering and a definite change of pace from the rest of the album. It’s a perfect closer.
 
The best part of this album is the ability of the guys to create so many wonderful tracks, yet keep things different throughout the album.
There is not much change to the sound you know and love, yet this album feels more diverse than ever. It’s certainly the band’s most instant record of their career so far.
I found the first two albums required more concentrated listening to delve into the layers beneath the surface. These songs seem so amazingly instant, yet those unravelling layers are still there to ensure continued interest after many many hours of playtime.
 
I’ve been thrashing this album for weeks and my enjoyment has not diminished one little bit.
It’s glorious!
It’s essential.
Score: 
99
 
Mon
15
Sep

ADRENALINE RUSH - Adrenaline Rush (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

89%
Produced By: 
Erik Martensson
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers
Monday, September 15, 2014
Categories: 
 
Despite the appearance on the CD of as 5 piece band, the recorded side of Swedish rockers Adrenaline Rush is down to the partnership of vocalist Tave Wanning and master songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Erik Martensson, who provided all instruments, all but 2 of the songs and all mix and production duties here.
So essentially this is a new Martensson project with a female vocalist this time, giving it a new fresh dynamic over past albums with Toby Hitchcock, WET and of course Eclipse.
As with everything that Erik Martensson touches, this sounds a million bucks, with a big powerful production and clear mix.
 
Musically it’s a little different for Erik, the material sounds like a mix of recent Eclipse and old school Motley Crue styled LA hard rock. In fact both Girls Gone Wild and Hit You Like A Rock both sound like they were lifted straight off Motley’s Dr. Feelgood album. Girls Gone Wild borrows heavily from Kickstart My Heart!
 
It’s a big groovy melodic hard rock record with some fast moving stadium anthems like Want It All, Change and Playin’ To Win.
There are a couple of melodic rock anthems like Too Young To Die, No No No and Black N Blue.
When We’re Gone is the darker, moodier mid-album circuit breaker.
 
There are some really attractive elements in this album. The sound is huge, the mix is crystal clear and there are a few monster songs.
I don’t think it is quite as memorable as past Martensson projects, but that is maybe down to the style of singer Tave Wanning. Erik has received a couple of perfect 100s and a few very high 90s in the last few years, so he’s still my favourite producer of recent years.
Well worth checking out for fans of Erik’s material and fans of female fronted ass kicking melodic rock.
Score: 
89
 
Tue
26
Aug

STATE OF SALAZAR - All The Way (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

92%
Produced By: 
State Of Salazar
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Categories: 
 
The Swedes do it again! What a great little melodic rock n pomp album this is. Filled to the brim with Swedish melodic goodness and bubbling over with uplifting harmonies and catchy choruses.
The band has an interesting sound. It’s hard to be original in this day and age, but these guys have their own swagger, that’s for sure.
What I’m hearing here is a mix of Swedish pop/rock and melodic rock with Styx influenced pomposity mixed in.
Vocalist Marcus Nygren is a real find. He wrote all the lyrics and music here and his vocals are the driving force behind the album.
 
Imagine some anthemic Mitch Malloy mixed with Toby Hitchcock and the smooth AOR of last year’s Find Me project. Add some 70s Styx pomp and some 80s Toto precision Westcoast and you might get close to State Of Salazar.
Whatever the sound, the songs are brilliant and draw you back in each time. Without repeating themselves, there’s one hit song after another.
 
I Believe In You is a happy go lucky pop rocker with a sweet vocal; Field Of Dreams sounds like the straight ahead melodic rock of Blanc Faces/Find Me; All The Way sounds like classic 70s Styx with an AOR chorus; while the ballad Love Of My Life could have come from any classic 80s rock soundtrack.
 
Elsewhere the melodic goodness of Eat Your Heart Out is pomp perfection; the immense Catastrophe is anything but, with the band showing depth with additional layers of strings; and Always is simply pop rock happiness.
Adrian is the band at their anthemic, layered pompous best and the ballad End Of Time is a relaxed way to close out a pretty energetic record.
 
A real find and destined to be one of the best debut albums of 2014. Packed with catchy hooks, glorious melodies and choruses at every turn.
If you enjoy anything out of Sweden and the lighter side of melodic rock, then these guys are an absolute must get.
Classy world-class production just tops off an all-round great record.
 
Score: 
92
 
Tue
26
Aug

X-DRIVE - Get Your Rock On (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

85%
Produced By: 
Andy John & Jeremy Brunner
Running Time: 
45
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Categories: 
 
Newcomer X-Drive is the brainchild of guitarist Jeremy Brunner who put this band together with star vocalist Keith St. John (Burning Rain, Montrose). Together the pair wrote all the album’s songs and Jeremy co-produced with the legendary producer Andy Johns, who sadly passed away not long after completing this album.
Mixed by Wyn Davis and joined by James Lomenzo on bass, there has been a lot of money, time and effort put into this and it shows.
Keith St. John sounds a million bucks on this album – I prefer his vocals here over Burning Rain and his solo work. He’s just completely in the groove and speaks to my tastes perfectly.
 
There’s nothing overly complicated in the music itself, we’ve heard this kind of record before, but it is classic American hard rock done very very well. With so much great music coming out of Scandinavia, the Americans have been a little left behind. So it’s great to get a well written, well produced album in this vein.
 
Brunner’s riffs drive the album, delivering two solid hard rockers with Love’s A Bitch and Get Your Rock On to kick off the album.
But it’s the groove infused Steppin On The Rock that really gets my attention. The moody ballad Baby Bye Bye continues to grow the stature of this record, with the catchy California driving it over the top.
Lay Me Down is a moody, darker rocker that fits in beautifully. A great vocal here from Keith.
Fly Beyond The Angels is a very nice sentimental ballad and the mid-tempo groove of Just Can’t Stay is also solid.
Love Breaks The Fool is a enjoyable mid-tempo melodic rocker to finish.
 
The only thing that I could suggest might have made this even better is a couple of more uptempo tunes. The guys already sound in the right groove, so it would have been cool to see them really let go. The majority of the album is best described as mid-tempo, but there’s still enough variety here to please most folks and as stated earlier, the production, the performances and the songs are all of high quality.
Definitely worth checking out!
Score: 
85
 
Tue
26
Aug

MIKE TRAMP - Museum (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
 
01 Trust In Yourself
02 New World Coming
03 Down South
04 Better
05 Freedom
06 Commitment
07 And You Were Gone
08 Slave
09 Mother
10 Time For Me To Go
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

87%
Produced By: 
Soren Andersen & Mike Tramp
Running Time: 
44
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Rock
Label: 
Target
Artist: 
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Categories: 
 
Not a truer line has been written when Mike Tramp’s bio described his album’s a musical diary of his life. Mike certainly wears his heart on his sleeve and pours that heart into his songs.
It’s something I respect the singer/songwriter for immensely, even when I’m occasionally not totally in tune with his musical output.
 
Mike has recorded some of my favourite singer/songwriter material. His Recovering the Wasted Years album remains an all-time classic for me.
Last year’s Cobblestone Street I thought was a little hit and miss, but the new album Museum is a much stronger affair.
 
Museum continues the stripped back, acoustic driven sound that Mike’s solo career has been based upon, perhaps a little more energetic than Cobblestone Street.
But at the heart of the album are some more truly inspiring songs.
 
None better than Trust In Yourself. Mike’s raspy vocal and haunting style are an immediate positive and the message is strong.
The layered acoustics of New World Coming draw you in, before the bluesy earth tones of Down South offer something new for Tramp fans.
The sparse piano ballad Better is another highlight for me, both in the lyrical quirk and the style of the song.
 
Freedom is a more uptempo and musically layered song while the again haunting Commitment returns to the sparse and raw emotional side.
The trio of songs that follow offer more insights into Mike’s life and continue the quality of earlier tracks.
Time For Me To Go is another great song and closes a very consistent and enjoyable record.
 
This is another one for long time Tramp devotees. Those that get Mike know what’s coming and based on the songwriting here, should rate this very highly.
Those that prefer the heavier White Lion or Freaks Of Nature sound might still find this a little stripped back for their tastes, but I urge those to take a good listen as skipping this album will miss some classy new songs.
 
Score: 
87
 

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